I learned a few days ago that Pro. John A. Tvedtnes of BYU passed on June 3, 2018. He was 77 years old. He was a prolific writer, publishing many books on the ancient Near East and its relationship with the Book of Mormon. He was until his retirement in 2007, the senior research scholar at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU. His work on the Book of Abraham was especially important to me, as I have long held a deep interest in that work. His biography, written by his friend Daniel Peterson, is here.
I just read that BYU’s Middle Eastern Text Initiative will be published in the future by Brill. Previously, the publisher had been the University of Chicago Press. I liked UCP because their prices were reasonable. You could pick up works by Muslim and Christian thinkers for $25-30 apiece. Brill, because of their standing in the academic world and type of material they publish, rob you blind. It is not rare to see a book for $150-200.
So while I am hopeful, I think this will probably be a horrible decision for a customer that is not an academic library. Fail!
On January 3rd, the news came out that President Thomas S. Monson, the 16th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had passed away the day before. He was 90 years old and has now joined his wife, Sis. Frances Monson. He fathered 10 children and had many grandchildren as well. He was an Apostle of the Lord for over 50 years. LDS.org had a great biography of the man and his life time of service. President Donald Trump sent a gracious notice here.
What I remember most about President Monson is gentle voice and numerous stories about service to those around him. He encouraged us, as members of the faith and as humans beings, to love those around us, even if we did not agree with them. Especially if we did not agree with them. With his passing, the work continues and goes on.
I can only say, as song goes, “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.” Welcome home, sir.
Kith, Kin, Strangers and everyone else. Merry Christmas. As I do every year when the holidays come around, I ask that you put aside the conspicuous consumption of consumerism and remember the reason for the season.
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!
My brother Jason and I were able to go on an epic road trip throughout the eastern part of the United States. We first went to Lookout Mtn., Georgia, looking over the battlefield there. Sadly, it rained and we were not able to see the battlefields for Chattanooga or Chickamauga. We then drove up through the Great Smokey Mountains Park Way and looked at the mountains and the trees. This was more for Jason’s benefit since he is a hiker and I don’t really care for nature. We did go to Cades Cove, though, which was a first for me.
We stopped off in Saltville, Virginia before making out way to the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields. Jason has always had a deep love of Civil War history, which I also share in. Seeing these sites and talking about the events that took place there were great.
From there, we went up to Palmyra, New York to see some early LDS church history sites. Jason had never been up there, but I went on a trip with my parents to Maine and we stopped there when I was about 14 or so. We went to the Hill Cumorah, where Joseph was led by an angel to find the plates. We visited his home, where some of the translation was done. We were also able to visit the Sacred Grove, which essentially was first step on his path in re-establishing Christ’s church. We also visited the Peter Whitmer Farm, where the church was organized in 1830.
We then moved on to the Saratoga battlefield, just north of Albany. I am a long time student of this period in the US, perhaps even more so than the Civil War. We also went to Valley Forge and Philadelphia. A major goal of my trip was to see the brand new Museum of the American Revolution, in Philly. I have to say that I was disappointed. I expected deeper knowledge than what was provided. I have to give it a C- on effort.
From there, we went to Mt. Vernon, where I almost passed out from the heat, and the battlefield at Yorktown. Unfortunately, it was too hot to do more, so we left and drove home. While most of the trip was awesome, someone needs to cure my brother’s obsession with 80’s rock. Way too much. :-o
Facebook friends can see pictures here.
It seems too often that miracles are cast away upon the evocation of science and logic. The Book of Mormon even mentions that in the last days this would enfold, stating that the learned men will say, “Behold , hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.” [2 Nephi 28:6]
I was at church yesterday listening to a Primary program [this involves the young children giving testimony and singing songs of Christ]. One of the boys stood up and related a story about being on a plane. The plane struck some turbulence and people began panicking. The boy and his brother prayed for a miracle and he said that immediately afterwards the Lord provided a miracle by smoothing the journey.
My immediate thought on hearing this was “that is not a miracle.” The pilot, using skill and knowledge, corrected the plane’s path and smoothed out its journey. How cynical! I immediately castigated myself. To this boy, he felt the hand of the Lord. This is no doubt in part what the Lord meant when he told the people:
Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 18:3–4]
I sat there and then observed the miracles within this boy’s story. He was on a plane hurtling through the air. He had a skilled pilot who was in the right place and time. He humbly called on the Lord in faith and was answered. I then had another thought: how often had I overlooked the miracles of my life, writing them off as happenstance or luck or the skill of myself or others? I must admit that I rarely look for and even more rarely acknowledge the hand of the Lord in my life.
Do I want to live in a world without miracles? I think not.
My relationship with music has been on again off again for most of my life. I sing in church (poorly) but have little to do with it myself beyond that. At other times, I only listen to music to stave off boredom, sleep and the inevitable accident that results from those two in combination while driving. In times of depression or loneliness, however, music has done much to calm me and give me peace. I want to share one of these songs with you.
I was on Facebook and saw someone sharing this video of an Israeli Defense Force group singing Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece, Hallelujah. This is one of my favorite songs and this version stunned me. I don’t know any Hebrew except for a couple of religious terms, but it still called out to me and I wanted to share it here.
An article in the Salt Lake Tribune came out last week about the attempt by a small LDS feminist group* that sought tickets to this April’s conference of the Church. Specifically, it was for tickets to the Priesthood Session of the conference. The Church’s response was that it would not issue such tickets. I understand the need for feminists in general to confront what they perhaps see as an outdated patriarchy. I also understand the feelings of those who may have doubts about the faith or even leave it for this reason. It is one thing to speak about the joint leadership of Relief Society and the Priesthood, but see the practical aspects of traditional leadership fall most heavily to one side.
Despite this, I believe that these sisters are seriously damaging their spiritual relationship with our Heavenly Father. I do not think this because I feel that God is a big supporter of patriarchy but that we are given adversity to test our faith. As always, my stand dictates that I will stand with God’s prophet on Earth. If it is God’s will that women should receive the Priesthood, then eventually they will receive it. If it is not his will, you build a foundation on shaky ground by demanding that He change to your moral stance. God has shown through many different issues that his ways are most definitely not our ways.
At this moment, however, I also look at my thinking on the issue. I sincerely believe that Priesthood is a male purview because that is what our Father intends and it is what he needs. Priesthood session is often not pleasant as we gather to bond as Brothers in the gospel and hear the warnings of the Lord. Traditionally, they are in sincere need of it. Yet, if Thomas Monson were to tomorrow deliver the news that this group desires, the impetus would then fall on me. Would I have doubts conflicting with my current self, or would I continue my efforts in following the Prophet? My understanding of their struggle stems, no doubt, on what I would be going through if the positions were reversed. It would then be my trial of faith.
*The article notes that 90% of women and 84% of men oppose allowing the Priesthood for women.
*Update – June 14th* – It seems that both Kate Kelly of Ordain Women and John Dehlin of Mormon Matters were excommunicated. A good friend of mine wrote a great article on punishment and its place in the LDS Church. I hope that their path becomes clearer and that this time apart will be a teaching moment.
Recently, Prof. Karen King of Harvard University published a fragment on the internet that indicates that Christ was married. Written in Coptic, the language of Egyptian Christianity, it states, “Jesus said to them, my wife.” Unfortunately, because it is a small fragment, we do not know what Jesus actually said to them about “his wife.” At her blog The Forbidden Gospels, April DeConick correctly points out that this is not new news. We already had the Valentinian Gnostic Gospel of Philip that also hints at the marriage of Jesus.
How does the Church fall on the issue? On this and many other subjects, it has no official position. Many early church leaders did state that they believed Christ was married and that he may even have had children before his crucifixion. Modern uninterest in the topic fueled one anti-Mormon site into questioning the integrity of the Church, saying that it taught the public one thing and members another. In essence, this is a silly criticism to me, because fundamentally the status of Christ’s marriage does nothing to change the gospel message. As my mission president once stated, “Faith, Repentance, Baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Spirit are the pillars of our faith, everything else is mostly peripheral.”
My own personal position on the subject is that Jesus was married. Do I have proof? No, but I have circumstantial evidence that calls out to me. The strongest evidence to me is that the first to see the risen Lord was Mary Magdalene. Now, she could have been a very faithful follower or something more. Also, I believe Christ “fulfilled all righteousness” and provided the guidepost on how we live our lives. To me, this includes marriage. To be honest, we do not have the entirety of the Lord’s biography but are merely rooting around in the dark based on the scriptures and gleaned fragments. I would like more proven evidence to back up my personal belief but in the end my salvation does not hinge on the question.
Update: Jim Davila, at his blog PaleoJudaica (one of my favorites), has come out with the opinion that it is fake. He writes,
So my current judgement, which seems to be what most people are thinking, is that the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife fragment is very likely a fake. If it is genuine, it tells us what one late apocryphal tradition speculated about Jesus, but nothing about the historical Jesus.