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Kevin Christensen

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  1. The decision to overturn Roe, was a result of deliberate, strategic court packing, not of the logic ultimately offered justify the decision. Merrick Garland was Obama's nominee, certainly qualified to sit on the court. On the pretext of "letting the voters decide" in an election year, Mitch McConnell refused to let elected representatives decide, and then smugly shoved through three Trump nominees including two in an election year, chosen for the combination of right wing ideology and relative youth, in a election year in which the voters gave the Senate to the Democrats, which lets McConnell's reasoning for refusing to seat Garland sit on the Supreme court hang over his subsequent actions like the aroma of fresh meadow muffins, an extra taint for candidates chosen specifically to overturn Roe, who publically lied to Congress about what they would do about Roe to secure the necessary Senate votes, votes, which, if considered in light of the number of voters the sentators collectively represent, do not represent the majorty of the US population. Far from it. (Democratic senators represent 40 million more votes than do Republicans.) Though the only ones who could not see that deception regarding Roe were Joe Manchin and Susan Collins, who now declare that they were misled. Now, we are supposed to rejoice at how wonderful everything will be now that the Supreme Court has decided what is legal and acceptable and leaves what is punishable with threats of life imprisonment and perhaps the death penalty, and in Texas culture of bounties paid to those who inform and what is not, and all the love and trust that such a community with crammed and profitable prisons could possibily aspire towards. That is far from Alma asking us to "mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort," sharing burdens that they may be light. Here is a mother of three talking about her burden: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/roe-wade-abortion-forced-birth-rapist_n_62b489d7e4b06594c1e10e18 As LDS, I do not believe that life begins at conception, but before. We don't know when the spirit enters the body, but we do have one hint in 3 Nephi: "On the morrow come I into the world." What kind of life would I choose for my mother, the one to bear, birth, and then raise me, the one through who I enter into this world characterized not by absolutes, but of opposition in all things? If I have a choice, what would I choose for her? If I have a voice, how does that enter in? Do her circumstances matter, or just any chance for any kind of life for me no matter the length or quality and no matter what the cost to anyone else, especially that one who bears the most direct pain and responsibility? Can individual circumstances matter, or is this an absolute which bears no opposition, no special cirumstances, no compromise? I often think on paragraph by Nibley in "The Unsolved Loyalty Problem" "The cruelty of the times (the fourth century), says Afoldi,cannot be fully explained by the corruption of the age;... the spirit of the fourth century has its part to play. The victory of abstract ways of thinking, the universal triumph of theory, knows no half-measure; punishment, like everything else must be a hundred percent, but even this seem inadequate" Compromise is now out of the question: God, who once let the sun shine on the just and the unjust, and let the wheat and tares grow together, now insists that the unjust should cease to exist, and that only sheep should inhabit it." What does Jesus say regarding those who "bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers?" The states which are most adamanantly anti-abortion are also those that provide the worst health care, the poorest school funding, the worst help for the poorest, and that tried hardest to resist and then remove Obamacare. There was nothing about legal abortion that made it compulsory for anyone, even when a person has difficult and complex choices to make. It was simply one choice available to person most impacted. Does the power to compell choice for all, to have one circumstance fit all, to say, if a woman is raped or endangered in health, she just has to stay raped and face the danger and inconvenience, or go to prison for life, and not complicate other people's lives with socialist claims on the community for the next 19 years, go with priesthood? FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonburg, PA
  2. The Spirit World chapter in the Brigham Young Priesthood manual has things like this: "I can say with regard to parting with our friends, and going ourselves, that I have been near enough to understand eternity so that I have had to exercise a great deal more faith to desire to live than I ever exercised in my whole life to live. The brightness and glory of the next apartment is inexpressible. It is not encumbered so that when we advance in years we have to be stubbing along and be careful lest we fall down. We see our youth, even, frequently stubbing their toes and falling down. But yonder, how different! They move with ease and like lightning. If we want to visit Jerusalem, or this, that, or the other place—and I presume we will be permitted if we desire—there we are, looking at its streets. If we want to behold Jerusalem as it was in the days of the Savior; or if we want to see the Garden of Eden as it was when created, there we are, and we see it as it existed spiritually, for it was created first spiritually and then may behold the earth as at the dawn of creation, or we may visit any city we please that exists upon its surface. If we wish to understand how they are living here on these western islands, or in China, we are there; in fact, we are like the light of the morning. … God has revealed some little things, with regard to his movements and power, and the operation and motion of the lightning furnish a fine illustration of the ability of the Almighty (DBY, 380)." "When we pass into the spirit world we shall possess a measure of his power. Here, we are continually troubled with ills and ailments of various kinds. In the spirit world we are free from all this and enjoy life, glory, and intelligence; and we have the Father to speak to us, Jesus to speak to us, and angels to speak to us, and we shall enjoy the society of the just and the pure who are in the spirit world until the resurrection (DBY, 380–81)." https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-brigham-young/chapter-38?lang=eng In looking at the Teachings of Brigham Young on the Spirit World it is evident that he goes far beyond what is contained in the Bible on the afterlife, (which contains remarkably little), and that he can do so because of his personal experience. The manual does not make the connection between his knowledge and to what happened to him at Winter Quarters, but that, I think is the best explanation. See the account here: https://sunstone.org/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/097-86.pdf Then there was David B. Haight's NDE, reported in General Conference. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1989/11/the-sacrament-and-the-sacrifice?lang=eng Joseph F. Smith's Vision of the Redemption of the Dead in our Doctrine and Covenants is also informative and useful. The Nibley video, Faith of an Observer, contains Nibley's account of his own NDE. Many years ago I wrote an essay that demonstrates that Alma's conversion was comparable to modern Near Death Experience accounts. And Alma, it happens, provides the most detailed reports of the afterlife. He also provides the accounts by Lamoni, the Queen, and Lamoni's father. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/jbms/vol2/iss1/2/ One of the interesting things about Raymond Moody's Life after Life book is that it was preceeded by Duane Crowther's collection of LDS NDE accounts, Life Everlasting. Among other things, it includes several accounts, from Joseph Smith's vision of Alvin, to many more up to the time of his writing. Moody soon discovered how neatly LDS teachings and reports fit with his discoveries. His book The Light Beyond cites the LDS as the most prominent western faith to accept NDE accounts. He cites "Mormon Leaders" but if you check the accounts he provides, it turns out to be Brigham Young. Moody tells the story of Jedediah Grant's NDE, as reported by Heber C. Kimball in conference, but leaves out Grant's most telling remark, "Why it was just as Brigham has told us many times." This is a video of Raymond Moody talking with an interviewer about NDEs and containing the reports of six different experiencers, one of whom tried to commit suicide. I have seen several different videos on the topic and this is by far the my favorite. One of the key aspects of NDE accounts on experiencers is that those who have them report that they no longer fear death. It also turns out that just reading and listening to NDE accounts conveys the same benefits as the actual experience. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  3. John Bradshaw's classic book Healing the Shame that Binds You distinguishes between toxic shame and healthy shame. Shame is a painful feeling of being exposed when you are not ready to be exposed. Toxic shame is when you feel that you are inherently defective, a mistake, painful exposure waiting to happen. Healthy shame is when you recognize that you are human, and therefore, make mistakes, and therefore, as a mere human rather than the God of your own existence, need boundaries. It follows that a shameless person has no boundaries and that their ego is the source of their commandments. (Where to come up with a good example of that kind of person? Ex presidents?) The point of confession in recovery as in repentence is not to inflict shame but to release it. A person who feels inherently defective does not want to be exposed and inevitably rejected as such, and lies reflexively to avoid any such feeling of shame, and often just as reflexively projects their own guilts onto other people, using the role of judge and accuser as a substitute for personal repentence. (Once again, there is a very good example of excesses of that kind of being.) What happens with true recovery and confession is that before a person confesses, they will first be exposed to other people's confessions. And as they listen recognize themselves, see their own flawed but still lovable humanity in the confession of the other. They then find hope that in their own confessing they will not be rejected as defective, but rather, recognized as human and loved as such. With confession comes the release of a burden that they had likely carried for so long and so constantly, that till the weight of it left, they did not understand how heavy it was and how long they had carried it. With confession and release comes an enhanced capacity for change, aided by the recognition that other flawed humans, and perhaps even a compassonate and perfectly understanding Christ, can help carry their burden and help in defining and maintaining healthy boundaries. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  4. I find it rewarding to read this essay about the development of Jewish and Christian canon: http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/TextAndContext.pdf And then read 1 Nephi 13:20-42 FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  5. What should happen with paradigm debate is comparison and asking which of two or more competing paradigms is better, where the way a person decides which is better is not totally paradigm dependent. As far as changing the rules of the game, Kuhn has this: The problem of falsification involves not just an objective consideration of facts that unambiguously speak for themselves, but "networks of assumptions" that extends to involve which observations count for facts and tests do we perform using which instruments to account for them. As N. R. Hanson famously observed, "All data are theory-laden." A good example of that comes from the founder of the modern scientific method, Bacon himself. Bacon's problem derives from a lack of imagination, not being able to imagine how things would look to an observer on a spinning earth that moved around the sun in the spiral arm of a vast galaxy. And Copernicus himself had a problem in assuming perfectly circular orbits. It was Kepler who modified the assumptions and demonstrated that the Copernican system worked to account for observations. Approaches to the Book of Abraham always involve networks of assumptions, not all of which turn out to be valid, and not all of which happen to be binding on the Latter-day Saints. It happens that we can test that little narrative about "That is the insuperable problem with apologetics: it starts with a defined conclusion and works backward to support it." Does that define what I have seen across the spectrum of LDS apologetics? I don't think so. For me that narrative is testable, and it does not pass the test, does not account for my personal experience with a great many LDS apologists of many decades. That little narrative is rather, another very good example of the point I sought to make earlier, that the metaphors we select as paradigmatic, rather than the evidence and perspectives available, are what we convert to and from. Indeed, the most effective LDS thinkers have been those who have re-examined the cultural assumptions with which we approach our own texts, and changed what we see in them. For instance, much of what Nibley did (with "Before Adam" for example, and much else), Sorenson did (with the overall Book of Mormon setting), Brant Gardner did (with the early setting of the Book of Mormon , Alan Goff did, Mark Wright did, Margaret Barker did, what Ethan Sproat did with "skins as garments", what Matt Roper did with "Nephi's Neighbors", what Daniel Peterson did with "Nephi and his Asherah", Robert Smith did with "the land of no return", what Tim Barker did in pointing out the implications of Joseph Smith's comments about the Hor Book of Breathers characters that Rueben Hedlock added to Facsimile 2, what a great many others have done, is change how and where we look and what we see. They changed the rules of the game away from traditional ways of thinking, rather than just repeat and re-enforce traditional assumptions and conclusions. Often radically. This is not a bad thing. Joseph Smith famously commented that: Jesus told us that contextualizing the same words differently can have a huge effect on the harvest, ranging from nothing, to a hundred fold. In all paradigm debates, the issue is, to a degree, We ought not start out by supposing we have no beams in our eye to remove, that we will never see more clearly than we do now, that if Joseph Smith did anything puzzling or unsettling, then that proves that "there is no God" because "It stands to reason," Isaiah 55:8-11 notwithstanding, "If things are not the way I would prefer them for my own comfort and satisfaction, God could not be involved." And we always have to consider "which problems are more significant to have solved?" Me, I've said I think Kolob is very cool. From Hamlet's Mill, see page 73: Michael Rhodes points out that: Yes, there are puzzles. But also, I believe, something real, something inspired and inspiring. And the things that I find most inspiring come from observers who offered information and perspectives radically different than the traditions I started with. Far from being an "insuprable problem," these experiences cause my "understanding to be enlightened and [my] mind doth begin to expand. Oh then is this not real?" Real, yes, but not perfect. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg,, PA
  6. Regarding analogies, metaphors, and their power: Ian Barbour points out that every metaphor has both positive and negative analogies. What makes metaphors useful is that they are also extensible, and can provide, maps of territory yet to be explored. But the map is not the terrority. So the question is, is this metaphor really the best metaphor to account for all that goes on in the situation to which is being applied? That is, how good is the puzzle definition and solution, the accuracy of the key predictions it makes, how comprehensive and coherent a model does it provide, how fruitful is it, (that is, if you climb inside, how much do you see that you would otherwise not have seen), simplicity and aesthetics, and future promise? The heart of the metaphor is the comparison of the identification of the Hor Book of Breathings as the undisputed source of the Book of Abraham as comparable to identifying a PF Changs menus an Ancient Armenian Book of Religious incantations. The advantage the metaphor provides is that is assigns values to evidence via the metaphor: Rather than direct consideration of all sorts of things not to be found on any PF Chang menu or ancient Armenian writing, the metaphor does all the work. No actual puzzle definition and solution, no accuracy of key predictions, no comprehensiveness and coherence, no fruitfulness, no future promise. It is simple though. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  7. One other aspect of the Kirtland Papers in relation to its relationship to the Book of Abraham and "translation" should not be ignored. Quoting Schryver's FAIR presentation: After a bit he observes: https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/conference/august-2010 This sort of thing does not magically go away in light of Don Bradley's and Mark Ashurst McGee's research showing that the interpretation of a single boat shaped character was cited in relation to the Kinderhook plates. Rather, that Nauvoo use of the Kirtland papers becomes even odder. Kuhn observed that “consciously or not, the decision to employ a particular piece of apparatus and to use it in a particular way always carries an assumption that only certain sorts of circumstances will arise.” (Kuhn, Structure, 59) The things that Schryver pointed out are not the kinds of things I would expect to find, based on the assuption that that the GAEL represents Book of Abraham translation working papers. Nor would I expect anyone to look to the GAEL for the boat-shaped character in relation to the Kinderhook plates. It's odd, but what does it mean? Then we have Tim Barker pointing out at FAIR that the published Facsimile 2 has from the start offered blunt evidence that Joseph Smith openly stated that he did not translate the Hor Book of Breathings characters. I notice that those who have hung their convictions on the notion that because the Hor Book of Breathings does not match the Book of Abraham, we have game over set and match, nothing to see hear folks, nothing more to say, nothing more to ask, let's fold up the tent of Mormonism and all go home, have not been particularly talkative on that presentation. One thing that boat character and its use does not do is explain away Joseph Smith and the Book of Abraham. It's odd. But it is not the answer to everything. Robert S. Smith's essay raises huge questions for those like Bill Reel, who think they've explained the Book of Abraham. There is another good essay in Historicity and the Latter-day Saints on the Book of Abraham against the ancient setting: https://rsc.byu.edu/historicity-latter-day-saint-scriptures/historical-plausibility-historicity-book-abraham-case-study And then there are the kinds of things in Tradition about the Early Life of Abraham volume in which the Book of Abraham is comparable to ancient texts unknown to anyone in the world when the Book of Abraham was produced. And the interesting pre-existence reports in the Apocalypse of Abraham is followed up by the elaborate comparison with Moses 1. https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2010-Jeffrey-Bradshaw.pdf So there are mysteries. And some things that are clear. Kuhn also points out that paradigm choice involves deciding "Which problems are more significant to have solved?" If my question is "there any evidence that Joseph Smith was less than perfect?" then the way to answer that question is to search for imperfections. And, necessarily to assume without question that the investigator is perfectly, infallibly capable both of finding and interpreting other people's imperfections. Imperfections in Joseph Smith, are not hard to find. Particularly when he declared, "I never claimed to be perfect." If my question is, "Is there any evidence that Joseph Smith ever recieved real inspiration?" then any decisive information comes from evidence that the Book of Abraham and others of his revelations transcends their 19th century contexts. That sort of thing is also very easy to find. And that leaves each individual to decide, "Which matters most?" Matthew 7:2 reminds us that "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  8. Back in January 2021 I started a thread on Tim Barker's important FAIR Presentation, "The Answer Under Our Heads." https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/conference/2020-fairmormon-conference/the-answer-under-our-heads For all of the detail, figures, and commentary he provides, at the center of it all is one very clear observation about information provided by Tanner and Heward in an early Dialogue essay claiming that the Book of Abraham is a bogus translation from the Hor Book of Breathings. Tanner and Heward made the important observation that Joseph Smith directed Rueben Hedlock to fill out gaps in the engraving for Facsimile 3 (the hypocephalus) with some characters from the Hor Book of Breathings and a figure from elsewhere. Unlike the previous 50 years of commentators, Tim Barker notices that while Heward and Tanner match up characters from the Hor Book of Breathings to marginal characters in the Egyptian papers, they did not match up to their influential thesis the fact that Joseph Smith's comments in the annotated portions of the published, reconstructed facsimile plainly show that Joseph Smith openly declares that he had expressly NOT translated those characters (taken from the Hor Book of Breathings). That means that the source of the Book of Abraham must be something else, despite long standing assumptions to that effect by a great many critics. To quote Barker: Jeff Lindsay has a nice post about Tim Barker's talk here. https://mormanity.blogspot.com/2021/01/a-gift-from-early-anti-mormon-attack-on.html One thing that I noticed that neither Lindsay or Tim Barker discuss much concerns Joseph's preparation of the incomplete facsimile 2 for publication. Lindsay includes an illustration where Tanner and Heward noted that the besides characters, image for the solar bark in the upper right panel was taken from other portions of the papyrii that Joseph Smith had in his possion. Hugh Nibley's collection of other examples of hypocephali in One Eternal Round shows that having that particular figure in that position was particularly apt. One might even say inspired. The value of a paradigm comes in testability and accuracy of key predictions, comprehensiveness and coherence, fruitfulness, simplicity and aesthetics, and future promise. For all the confidence I have seen in critics declaring that the Book of Abraham is an obvious fraud, obviously not a translation of an ancient text, I have seen exactly zero arguments that offer testable predictions and a reasonable explanation of the kinds of cool things I see in comparing the Book of Abraham to ancient Ancient Abraham texts and contexts. For instance, I am still dazzled by the passages in the Apocalypse of Abraham that discuss pre-existence in ways that are highly interesting to compare. Plus the elaborate comparison of the Apocalypse of Abraham and Moses 1. Nibley started that in his Enoch the Prophet, and Jeff Bradshaw and David Larsen have taken it further. And then are ties between the Genesis Apocryphon from the Dead Sea Scrolls and our Abraham and Sarah story. Between Pseudo Philo and the sacrifice of Abraham story. And much more for those willing to read a bit. I've never seen anything that I could call intellectual gymnastics to explain those features, but a great many simple dismissals. Bringing in Don Bradley's FAIR presentation, we have his statement that https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Don-Bradley-Kinderhook-President-Joseph-Has-Translated-a-Portion-1.pdf That is, Joseph compared one boat-chaped character on the Kinderhook plates (now known to be a forgery) that he commented on before this was known, but made no effort to acquire. Bradley concludes his FAIR presentation by saying. If that link between Joseph Smith and the GAEL and the Kinderhook plates is really the key to explain everything about Joseph Smith's translations, then let us have a comprehensive and detailed explaination. Not a blanket dismissal, and no details accounted for. How far do you get in science by making excessive generalizations from a single example? Regarding Joseph Smith as an inspired translator, we know that he translated the Book of Mormon with his face buried in a hat, not looking at the plates and by somehow working out a grammar. We know he translated the Book of Moses without any manuscript, and that D&C 93 quotes from a record of John that Joseph Smith never claimed to possess. It is one thing to be able to declare regarding Joseph Smith's work, "It's not the way that I would have done it if I were God!" and quite another to actually do something comparable to what Joseph Smith did. Regarding the Kirtland Papers, Schryver observed that: And there is the supposed disconnect between the Book of Breathings and Abraham, when it turns out that the Testament of Abraham is an ancient document that shows close ties to the Book of the Dead, which is in turn, related to the Book of Breathings. See Nibley's Abraham in Egypt for that. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  9. I've got Sarah Hinze's 1994 book, Coming from the Light: Spiritual Accounts of Life Before Life. And I attended her presentation at the 1999 IANDS conference in Salt Lake City. As I recall, as part of her research she went to IANDS (International Association of Near Death Studies), and asked if they had gathered any pre-birth accounts. She was initally told, "No, we've never heard of that kind of thing," but when they went ahead and looked, they found numerous accountsin the archive. The IANDS archivists had stories, but not a concept of pre-existence to account for their meaning. So they did not recognize what they had. I think it was Hinze that reported the story I have occasionally repeated, about a young unwed mother who was visited by a potential child to be, who said, "Mom, you've got to make up your mind one way or another... if you aren't going to have me, I need to make other arrangements." FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  10. I have told the Pre-birth story of a young unwed mother who was struggling with the decision about whether to have the baby who reported a visit from her unborn child who said, "You've to make up your mind one way or the other because I am supposed to get to a particular family and if you don't do it I have to make other arrangements." One of the striking things about that story is the consideration regarding the choice. And that other arrangements can enter in. There is opposition in all things and that by "Proving contrarities truth is made manifest." It follows that by suppressing contrarities, ideology is made manifest. One thing I notice about legal abortion is that nothing about legality makes it compulsory. That distinguishes it from rape, for instance, where compulsion is the defining characteristic. Rather, the person on whom the responsibility most heavily weighs gets to weigh in. And they might even seek and obtain divine guidance. I think about how priesthood authority works without compulsory means. I think about the recent headline about the Taliban announcing head to toe clothing for women. The Taliban, like those who enforce female circumcision, justify themselves as doing it to protect women from the consequences of poor life choices. The restrictions, the ritualized mutilation, is supposedly, a protection. And if such situatutions involves mutilation of innocence, and/or the threat of violence or prison, the alternative is to allow imperfect people to choose for themselves. Even victims of rape might not do or think exactly what we want, which, it goes without saying, must be what God wants and is therefore, beyond the possibility of question or debate. Thinking in absolutes rather than proving contraries that consider specific circumstances. Persuasion, gentleness, long suffering, meekness, and pure knowledge that greatly enlarges the soul without hypocrisy and without guile are nice in theory, but the threat of prison or the death penalty, is much more reliable in getting people to conform. Is the first and great commandment love or conformity? A contracted soul means not having to consider how different another's life and experience might be. I think about Benjamin talking about not trying to run faster than one has the strength. My wife worked in ICN and labor and delivery for nearly 40 years, and had two difficult and dangerous pregnancies that left permanent physical changes on her body. She says she would not personally have an abortion, nor help with one, but does not believe it should be illegal. She has seen way too much, a wide range of difficult circumstances to favor one choice for all people everywhere. Particularly when those making and enforcing that choice don't carry or feel the responsibilities and consequences. And prefer that all those babies and mothers not be a burden on taxpayers because that might lead to Venezualan styled socialism. Rather, lift yourself up by your bootstraps. If President Trump could rise on his own wits and big a-brain, without any help from the government, and just a few hundred million tax free from Dad, and armies of lawyers and enablers, why not them? I think of Shauna deciding to watch 5 minutes of Rush Limbaugh to see what an in-law saw in him, and finding him sneering at unwed mothers and the notion they deserved any compassion or consideration, she got so angry she could not stand it for another second. She's still angry. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Temporarily Sunnyvale
  11. There is the Spirit World chapter in the Brigham Young Priesthood manual, which has things like this: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-brigham-young/chapter-38?lang=eng In looking at the Teachings of Brigham Young on the Spirit World it is evident that he goes far beyond what is contained in the Bible, and that he can do so because of his personal experience. The manual does not make the connection to what happened to him at Winter Quarters, but that, I think is the best explanation. See the account here: https://sunstone.org/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/097-86.pdf Then there was David B. Haight's NDE. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1989/11/the-sacrament-and-the-sacrifice?lang=eng Joseph F. Smith's Vision of the Redemption of the Dead in our Doctrine and Covenants is also informative and useful. The Nibley video, Faith of an Observer, contains Nibley's account of his own NDE. Many years ago I wrote an essay that demonstrates that Alma's conversion was comparable to modern Near Death Experience accounts: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/jbms/vol2/iss1/2/ One of the interesting things about Raymond Moody's Life after Life book is that it was preceeded by Duane Crowther's collection of LDS NDE accounts, Life Everlasting. Among other things, it includes several accounts, from Joseph Smith's vision of Alvin, to many more up to the time of his writing. Moody soon discovered how neatly LDS teachings and reports fit with his discoveries. His book The Light Beyond cites the LDS as the most prominent western faith to accept NDE accounts. He cites "Mormon Leaders" but if you check the accounts, it turns out to be Brigham Young. He tells the story of Jedediah Grant's NDE, as reported by Heber C. Kimball in conference, but leaves out Grant's most telling remark, "Why it was just as Brigham has told us many times." This is a video of Raymond Moody talking with about NDEs and containing the reports of six different experiencers, one of whom tried to commit suicide. I have seen several different videos on the topic and this is by far the my favorite. One of the key aspects of NDE accounts on experiencers is that those who have them report that they no longer fear death. It also turns out that just reading and listening to NDE accounts conveys the same benefits as the actual experience. This sort of information is readily found, if you seek it. If not, of course, you can choose to blame LDS leaders. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  12. Apparently the Church History site in Harmony PA, where most of the translation was done forgot to make any effort whatsoever, except to provide a hat. I find it helpful to realize that the church is by definition a covenant collection of people, not an anthropmorphised entity that can be collectively blamed for whatever particular individuals have done. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  13. In 1 Nephi 13 a prophet in exile from Jerusalem 600 BCE offers a prophecy of how the Bible would be transmitted to the present. It would provide valuable knowledge of “the covenants of the Lord” and “prophecies of great worth” (1 Nephi 13:23), but also suffering losses of “plain and precious things” and “many covenants” that contribute to “blindness” (1 Nephi 13:27, 32, Jacob 4:14). The losses and blindness together cause a consequent “stumbling” among an “exceeding great many” (1 Nephi 13:29). Nephi’s prophesy then describes how the Book of Mormon would come forth (1 Nephi 13:35) by “the gift and power of the Lamb”, and then subsequently how other records would come through the gentiles and provide confirming information regarding both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and together restore “the plain and precious things” that had been lost (1 Nephi 13:39). Nephi cites specific key issues as signifiers of fulfillment: And the angel spake unto him saying: These last records which thou has seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known unto all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world, and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved. (1 Nephi 13:40) So first of all, the notion that something plain and precious had been lost upends the widely held belief that the Bible was "complete, inerrant, and sufficent." For some supporting information that something had been lost, to large extent based on many sources that have come through the Gentiles since the Book of Mormon see Margaret Barker, "The Secret Tradition" http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/SecretTradition.pdf Elsewhere she considers the evidence of the transmission and state of the Biblical texts, notably in comparing the oldest complete Masoretic text with the much much older Dead Sea Scrolls versions, for example that: See Margaret Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God. page 6. In her "Text and Context" essay on the transmission of scripture in light of modern evidence, Barker observes that: http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/TextAndContext.pdf Note the observation that “The distribution of unreadable Hebrew texts is not random; they are texts which bear upon the Christian tradition.” She reports that the earliest Christian Apologist, Justin Martyr, claims that the Jews of his time were changing scripture in response to Christian claims. Barker reports how the later Christians adopted the changed Hebrew scripture and canon in order to appease their Jewish rivals. Elsewhere, Noel Reynolds is able to trace "The Decline of Covenant in Early Christian Thought." See his essay https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/facpub/1481/ Margaret Barker's first book was called The Older Testament, and in the introduction she states that: I used that quote to introduce my study of Barker's work in comparison to the Book of Mormon, which also offers an unconventional look at Jerusalem and what was taught and believed in the Jerusalem temple before 600 BCE. After Barker read a few of my essays on the topic, she sat down and read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price in one day. She commented, "I was amazed at how much I recognized." When she spoke on the Book of Mormon at the Library of Congress in 2005, she said: And she also noticed that: See Margaret Barker on "Joseph Smith and Pre-exilic Israelite Religion" https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/byusq/vol44/iss4/9/ Also, see Kevin Christensen, "Paradigms Regained: A Survey of Margaret Barker's Scholarship and Its Significance for Mormon Studies" https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/paradigms-regained-survey-margaret-barkers-scholarship-and-its-significance-mormon-studies FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  14. D&C 1 has a line that says "Inasmuch as they sought wisdom, they might be instructed." Wisdom there could be capitalized. I quite like Val Larsen's recent work on how much is hidden in plain sight. His Square Two essay is very good on that. Daniel Peterson's Nephi and his Asherah is very important. Alyson Von Feldt's Review of Did God Have a Wife? was very insightful. Kevin Barney's Fair essay was very good. Barker’s The Mother of God is important. The BYU Studies essay was important. The Aston's Meridian essay on Myths about Mother in Heaven was important All of these were much better than Janice Allred's work because they all demonstrate careful seeking rather than untethered speculation. Whereas she produced a mirror of her own views, the others open windows. Best, Kevin Christensen Visiting family in Utah
  15. For far more than you might think, see the Greg Smith essay in Interpreter 7 (2013), "Passing up the Heavenly Gift" Part 1. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Visiting Family in Utah
  16. It is no secret that I think that there is such a thing as sex addiction, and that I have done recovery, so I have personally experienced the difference recovery makes, and in participating in recovery groups for many years, knowing a great many other addicts, I have seen the long term affects of both addiction and recovery in their lives and in the lives of their families I also served in the LDS ARP program for over 8 years, so I know what I am talking about. Usually a quarter to a third of participants in SA meetings report same sex desires as their issue, many with extensive acting out. I've known several who report that recovery saved not only their marriages, but their lives. I don't see homosexuality as equivalent to sex addiction, but that a homosexual can be sex addicted, an that can have consequences for how they experience life. Telling a sex addicted person "this is just the way you are" does not help their addiction. Telling a person with same sex desires that it might help to read up on addiction to see whether that is an issue does not mean that they will or should self-diagnose themselves as addicted. One of the things I got from reading Stephen Fales' "Confessions of a Mormon Boy" and Emily Pearson's Dancing with Crazy is that an addict who thinks "this is just the way I am" will have a lot of chaos in their life and that using second or third hand "BYU aversion therapy" horror stories as self-justification demonstrates not insight, but grievance as a typical tool for misdirection and self justification. I have read dozens of books by the most informed researches on the topic. One of the attitudes I had to unlearn in recovery was that "this is just the way I am." I recall talking a friend out of attending recovery meetings on grounds that sex addiction cannot be real because whereas drug addiction involves putting foreign substances in the body, sexuality is natural. So I found it profoundly enlightening to learn this about my own brain function: https://www.squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleChristensenRashomon.html It took a long time and patient effort to make amends for the effects of that conversation on my friend. But I have managed. And since I wrote that essay almost a decade ago, I saw the person who could not go a week without, did manage successful recovery. There is a huge difference in the weight carried by a person who lives "one day at a time" who doesn't need to act out today, and a person who anguishes and ruminates over a "life void of" their most important desires. To suppose that only homosexuals, as either single or in a heterosexual relationship can experience that void is absurd and to deny a common human experience. Just as free access to drugs or alchohol or a family's credit structure may not be the best thing for a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or a gambling addict, so unlimited acting out is not the solution for a sex addict. Nor does jail address the disease of addiction. One of the things the science of addiction has demonstrated is that in addiction, a person's brain is tricked into treating the object of addiction as equivalent to survival, as their most important need. One of the things recovery does is to undo that trick. (See the DVD Pleasure Unwoven: The Science of Addiction). Recovery addresses both the physiology of the brain through periods of celebacy and habits of thinking through things like step 4's "searching and fearless moral inventory." What that careful 12 Step work does is make connections between actions and consequences, so that when a person encounters challenges to their sobriety, they do not just focus on "euphoric recall" and act regardless of risks and consequences, nor do they constantly invoke grievances for self-justification, but see past the temptations of a moment to the connections with life overall, and they can choose freely. They don't excuse themselves as having been"triggered" but can choose to consciously address threats in a healthy way. For recovery to work, and not be just desperate repression and denial, both the physiological and mental aspects need to be addressed, and then maintained. The difference between Alma repenting and Laman and Lemuel's inconsistency and final rebellion is not the angel, but the life review. Alma looks to his own sins, whereas Laman and Lemuel immediately and continually offer grievance and resentment. True recovery heals the mind and the spirit. And then the burden and yoke is indeed light, and not a condemnation to an intolerable void. Recovered addicts learn that sex is optional. That not only are periods of celibacy necessary and helpful in healing from addiction, but that if life, married or not, happens to involve long periods of celibacy for any number of reasons, whether due to solitude or partner's health issues, (I know what I am talking about here), or just not getting exactly what you want when you want it, that does not mean their life is pointless and empty and not fully human. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  17. I've said for years that I think the whole Skinnerian conditioned response approach was fundamentally mistaken on grounds that the real issue is the degree of obsession/compulsion in personal behavior, rather than orientation. The electro shock approach was all about trying to redirect another person's obsession in an culturally acceptable direction, while leaving the fact of a life disrupting obsession/compulsion, unexamined, unacknowledged, and therefore, untreated. I doubt that a person whose life choices/obsessions/values did not involve severe personal conflicts would sign a consent form for any sort of shock therapy. Someone who could live day to day without obsessing about acting out, who did not feel, from moment to moment, like Heine's Atlas, that "I carry that which cannot be carried, and in my body my heart would like to break," would not be that desperate. It happens that two of the main diagnostic characteristics of an addicted person are 1) a conviction that the particular behavior is a person's most important need, subjectively equivalent to survival, and 2) a conspicuous reliance on personal grievances, a fixation on other people's misbehavior as a means to avoid introspection, which also feeds self-justification. Twelve step treatment addresses the biological and biographical aspects of addiction, and does so without recourse to electrodes. A person goes through a period of abstenance to help their body heal, and performs a careful life review, looking closely at the costs of the behavior and the grievances that support it, so that eventually, they no longer focus on the immediate gratifications, but the see larger context of any choice including eventual costs. This is done privately, amongst people who learn to trust one another, and who see themselves in one another. So that instead of being triggered and then inevitably acting out regardless of the costs and risks, they consciously choose to deal with threats, choosing for themselves and their loved ones, acceptable consequences and desired outcomes. Addiction recovery is not about changing orientation, but freeing a person from the compulsion to act out whatever the cost to self and loved ones. One aspect of the ongoing obsession with the temporarly limited and numerically small number of cases at BYU, and far from exclusively so, is that it itself demonstrates not just a desire to control another party's behavior through a kind of punishment/rewards system, via frequent public denoucement and labeling, but that is so doing, it tacitly demonstrates a conviction that public humiliation and labeling is an acceptable means of not only controlling somone else, but also that doing so, as Joseph Campbell observes, creates a mythology "sustains a social order". FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  18. Notice that quotations marks here--- "one and only true Church" -- do not actually match what D&C 1:30 says, which, I think, advocates a very different concept. Rather than misquoting, and then complaining about the implications of that misquote, I have found it enlightening to read and contextualize carefully. As I put in in "Sophic Box and Mantic Vista": In considering the source of the misreading offered, rather than binding LDS doctrine, I see normal and unavoidable human behavior, best expressed, I think, in the Perry Scheme for Cognitive and Ethical Growth: In "Sophic Box and Mantic Vista," I went on to make the case that by precept and example, Joseph Smith tries to lead us to Position 9. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/sophic-box-and-mantic-vista-a-review-of-deconstructing-mormonism/ FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  19. Here are 28 Biblical Tests for Discerning True and False Prophets. https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/answers/Biblical_Keys_for_Discerning_True_and_False_Prophets/Tests There is a direct relationship between how a person measures Joseph Smith and the answer they give. Just as there is about how a person measures Jesus and the answer they give. The different answers happen because people measure in different ways. After I compiled these tests, many years ago, I realized that anyone could have done it, and no one had. Why not? Because if you test Joseph or Jesus against your own personal subjective notions and desires, it is far easier to ensure that you get the answer you want at that particular moment in time. That is, you can give yourself an answer that does not require the sacrifice of a broken heart, or a contrite spirit. The problem with that subjective approach is that it is just that. Subjective. A matter of personal taste and inclination. The question is important. Jesus talks about discerning true and false prophets as discerning between grapes and thorns and figs and thistles. That is, he shows that is it a matter of defined characterisitics, not personal tastes. A bruised or bird pecked fig it still a fig, and a perfect thorn is not a grape. Even a raisen came from a grape vine. Regarding Swedenbog as a potential source for Joseph, see Craig W. Miller, “Emanuel Swedenborg and Mormonism” at Mormon Universalism” (blog), April 22, 2014, http://mormonuniversalism.com/2112/emanuel-swedenborg-and-mormonism/ See also J. B. Haws, “Joseph Smith, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Section 76: Importance of the Bible in Latter-day Revelation,” in The Doctrine and Covenants: Revelations in Context, ed. Andrew H. Hedges, J. Spencer Fluhman, and Alonzo L. Gaskill (Provo, UT, and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2008), 142–67, https://rsc.byu.edu/doctrine-covenants-revelations-context/joseph-smith-emanuel-swedenborg-section-76-importance-bible FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  20. Okay. But here is how I measure "real" Mormon spiritual experience. https://oneclimbs.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/A-Model-of-Mormon-Spiritual-Experience.pdf And here is how I test whether Joseph Smith measures up to what a "real" prophet should be. https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/answers/Biblical_Keys_for_Discerning_True_and_False_Prophets If that is an "awfully low bar", who else measures up? And I personally find it helpful to not anthropomorphise the "church" in regard to where the bar is set, but to consider specificially how in D&C 1 the Lord formally sets expectations the people we encounter in the LDS covenant assembly. If that is not a particularly high bar for the reality to expect among the LDS members, it does have the advantage of being the bar spelled out by the foremost authority. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, A
  21. That is exactly why Jesus says that judgement should start with introspection. "first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly." (Matt. 7:5) There is a huge difference between asking whether Joseph Smith and the LDS faith offers something real and asking whether it lives up to my personal desires, what I want it to be and what I want to do for me, and asking whether it is what I think it ought to be. Many decades ago, a friend of mine, after her mission wrote me, "If it's the truth, why isn't there more truth in it?" What she wanted was local members to behave with a bit more liberality in their thinking. What she meant by "truth" was ideal behavior and perfection in the community. So she left. What part of the Bible and the Book of Mormon and human history tells me that such an expectation is justified? It turns out that when the Buddha was being tempted under the Bo tree, the main temptations were Fear and Desire. What he thought should be, and wanted to be. So Buddhist temples have guardian statues representing Fear and Desire that a person must pass in order to enter. And so, in 3 Nephi Jesus calls for the sacrifice of a broken heart (our desires) and a contrite spirit (what we think is so) in order to enter the Real. I have noticed that every argument against Biblical prophets offered by Biblical peoples amounts to some one saying in effect, "It is not what I want" and/or "It is not what I think." Fear and Desire are always the obstacles we face, and the sacrifices we must offer to enter the Real. When ever I run across something I did not expect, or do like like, I ask myself, "What should I expect?" If, as Kuhn observes, “Anomaly appears only against the background provided by the paradigm,” then, as Nibley says, “Things that appear, unlikely, impossible, or paradoxical, from one point of view often make perfectly good sense from another.” Personally, when I raise my hand to sustain other members in their callings, having looked up the definition of "sustain" in a good dictionary, I understand that what I am telling God is that I am willing to endure, suffer, allow, support, and uphold as necessary, as my personal circumstances offer. To "sustain" someone is to tell God that I will put up with the crap. I expect the crap. I put my stock, the grounds for my faith elsewhere, in my ongoing experiments upon the word, the ongoing enlightenment of my mind, enlargement of my soul, the fruitfulness in tasting a great many things that I would have missed had I bailed, a great many treasures that I can see that I could have missed without ever knowing what I was missing, the deliciousness of many experiences and ideas, and the future promise I continue to see. My first published essay in Dialogue came about because I ran across something I did not expect in another Dialogue essay, and after pondering for a while, I was able to remove a beam from my own eye, and see differently. I wrote what I newly saw, and was published. Because of that moment, I continued in the faith, continued nurturing my seeds, and have learned a great deal more from some very bright people, and the occasional sacred experience, and have been in a position to even contribute, publishing another 40 or so essays. Just last week, I discovered that an essay I wrote in 2013 saved another person's faith. (Sophic Box and Mantic Vista). Having read the New Testament, I understand that some people who had the opportunity to see and hear Jesus said in response, "This is a hard saying, Who can hear it?" and "many followed no more after him." (See John 6, and the reaction to the Bread of Life sermon). Peter's answer, given in a state in which he clearly did not yet have all the answers he might desire, and did not yet understand what was coming for Jesus and for the disciples was "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of Eternal Life." FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  22. Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: 4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. 5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: 6 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 8 And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. 9 And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. 11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: 12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. 13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? The older I get, the more I examine arguments given by people who reject the gospel, the more I learn through my own study and life experience, the more impressed I am with that parable. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  23. No. Nibley is simply pointing out the parallels to the Temple, and suggesting that if "wrestle" should be translated as "embrace" and implying that the original context and setting for the story was a theophany and a ritual embrace like that in the temple, rather than a purely physical test of strength. And all of that suggests that something of the original story was perhaps muddled by someone who did not know that original context. Part of the meaning of the word "translate" is not just going from one language to another, but from one culture to another, and and across time and distance. So a perplexed and mistaken transmitter might have tried to help things along in the wrong direction based on missing the implications of a different meaning for the same Hebrew letters. The same seed planted in different soil and nurtured in different ways can have a dramatic impact on the harvest. "Know ye not this parable? and how than can ye know all parables?" Mark 4:13. The Gas-Law of Learning: "Any amount of information, no matter how small, will expand to fit any intellectual void, no matter how large." (Hugh Nibley). FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  24. In The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, Hugh Nibley said this: First edition, page 243. And think about all the wonderful implications of having something translated correctly, as well as Nephi's comments about no one being able to understand the Jews like unto them, save it be they are taught after the manner of the Jews, and Barker's elaborate case in King of the Jews: Temple Theology in John's Gospel that Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus on being "born again" because they had lost touch with the temple. FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
  25. If you consider that the long cultural history of the background rationalizations for the Biblical justification of slavery, Coltrin having not only been part of a country that rationalized slavery, and even after the Civil War, perpetuated Jim Crow laws and the widespread terror and violence that enforced such things, and to this day includes people who have hissy fits over the possibility that teachers in schools might mention such things in class rooms, but was part of the slave owning community, then this is not at all ad hominem, but rather addressing the impact of soil and nurture on the harvest. https://byustudies.byu.edu/article/the-curse-of-ham-race-and-slavery-in-early-judaism-christianity-and-islam-noahs-curse-the-biblical-justification-of-american-slavery/ Joseph Campbell observes that one of the functions of a mythology to to "sustain and uphold a social order." So it is important to check one's eye for beams and figure out what particular social order we ought to be upholding by emphasizing which stories. Zion, or Babylon? FWIW, Kevin Christensen Canonsburg, PA
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