RiseUp Podcast: Talking with your Parents About Sex

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A challenging subject for youth and young adults to address with one another, but the law of Chastity, sex, is something that is best if not left to the world take the lead. How does one talk with their parents about sex, why are parents the best source? Jimmy Carpenter gives some brief thoughts on the subject. (This one is best to listen to with your parents.)

RiseUp is a podcast for young adults who have difficult questions about church teachings and doctrines. Subscribe to the RiseUp (only) feed in iTunes, click here. 


Book Review: A Non-LDS Approach to Enoch for an LDS Audience: Samuel Zinner’s Textual and Comparative Explorations in 1 & 2 Enoch

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Textual-and-Comparative-Explorations2-small[The following review was written by Colby Townsend, an editorial consultant with Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture.]

Enoch has been a fascinating character in the Judeo-Christian tradition for millennia. It seems like there is a never-ending flow of ancient and modern texts on the ancient patriarch, his life, and times. In the LDS tradition, this fascination goes all the way back to the beginning with Joseph Smith’s work on revising the Bible, and the revelatory experience he had in receiving the Extracts of the Prophecy of Enoch, among other texts. Joseph Smith also used the codename “Enoch” in the Doctrine and Covenants when the brethren felt it necessary to veil the identity of individuals in the revelations, showing Joseph’s own personal connection with Enoch.

Aside from those early connections, and focused study on Enoch since Hugh Nibley’s work in the 1970’s, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have found solace in the stories found in the Pearl of Great Price about Enoch and his city Zion, how all people “were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18), and have sought this as a community of believers since the time of Joseph Smith.

With this backdrop, interested members of the Church will be excited to see the forthcoming title authored by Samuel Zinner, the first in the Ancient Scripture and Texts Series, co-published by the Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books. Those familiar with Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture will recognize the cover of Zinner’s new book, with a beautiful dark mahogany wood panel design. This is not just a simple copy and paste; the cover has been completely redesigned and has become its own, and will make a wonderful addition to any shelf.

Zinner has a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has spent years of research in Enochic traditions, as well as many other fields of research. He was part of the prestigious compilation German Scholars and Ethnic Cleansing, 1920-1945, published by Berghahn Books in 2004 (recipient of the “Choice Outstanding Academic Book of the Year Award” by the American Library Association).

He begins his study reflecting on the recently published commentary on 1 Enoch by George W. E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam in the Hermeneia Commentary Series. He enters right into the scholarly debate and discusses such topics as the scholarly dating of 1 Enoch, among numerous other texts, and how this can help in understanding this important Enochic work. It is important to note for the reader that the text of 1 Enoch is a composite text, originally five separate works woven into one text throughout a number of centuries (you can see my discussion in the annotated bibliography at the back of Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen, In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel [Provo: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014] for more information on this topic).

Zinner continues throughout the book providing a review and an update of current and past scholarship toward a better understanding of the Enochic corpora in the ancient world. He argues that 1 Enoch 42 needs to be rearranged on the basis of 4 Ezra and 1 Enoch 39:5. He spends a good portion of his time discussing the use of the “Son of Man” epithet and enters into a discussion with a broad and controversial area of scholarship on the Son of Man that has been going for several decades now, and this reviewer finds Zinner’s work to be very close to that of many Mormon scholars.

These sections will be of special note to members of the Church for their importance in understanding not only the use of the title “Son of Man” in the New Testament and Old Testament texts like Daniel, but also for understanding restoration scripture like the Book of Moses. Zinner explores Zion and Jerusalem as Lady Wisdom in Moses 7 and Nephi’s Tree of Life vision, and therefore offers a non-LDS perspective on a central LDS text. These essays will be found very welcome in Mormon scriptural studies.

Throughout the work there are discussions of various traditions that will be new to most readers. With the combination of Zinner’s personal experience and his vast knowledge of Judaism, Christianity, Mandaeanism, Kabbalah, Gnosticism, etc., this book is a gold mine to which one can return time and again for its rich references and bibliography. At just under three hundred pages, this book comes highly recommended for those interested in early Enochic and temple traditions. Members of the Church who follow the works of authors such as Hugh Nibley and Margaret Barker will find a welcome home in this book, and the time they spend in its study that will be richly rewarded.

Note: Textual and Comparative Explorations in 1 & 2 Enoch is scheduled for release later this month in conjunction with Interpreter’s “Temple on Mount Zion,” Conference, this Saturday, October 25.

Analysis of Textual Variants Now Available Online FREE

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[Cross-posted from Studio et Quoque Fide.]

I was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado in May of 1987. A year later, in Provo, Utah, Royal Skousen took over the FARMS-sponsored Book of Mormon Critical Text Project (CTP from this point on). For the last quarter-century and some change, Skousen has been dedicated to that project, while I have just been living a rather ordinary and unaccomplished life. Frankly, I cannot personally imagine what it would be like to spend what is essentially my entire lifetime (up to this point) with a dedicated focus to a single topic of study. Yet that is exactly what Skousen has done. And anyone who has even lightly pursued the fruits of his labors can only stand in appreciative awe at the breadth and depth of Skousen’s work.

Skousen himself has given the background history to the project. The fruits of the CTP finally began to published in 2001, starting with the ultra-violate photographs and transcriptions of the extent fragments of the original manuscript (plus relevant background commentary on the history of the OM, paper type and size, parts of the Book of Mormon extant, the scribes based on handwriting analysis, etc.), and a two-volume set of the same for the printer’s manuscript. These were already important and significant contributions to Book of Mormon scholarship. Never before had the two earliest extent versions of the Book of Mormon been both published in full and studied so thoroughly. But that was only the tip of the iceberg.

The next step was the monumental effort to study each and every variant in the text from these two manuscripts and 20 different print editions from 1830 to 1981. Between all these editions, Skousen documented over 100,000 changes, which he then analyzed carefully to determine which reading is most likely the original. (Unsurprisingly, earlier readings tend to be favored over later ones.) This analysis was published between 2004–2009, and spanned across 6 different volumes of 650–720 pages each, for a total of 4060 pages! Called Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon (ATV), it was indeed a monumental effort.

To some, this might all seem pretty over-the-top—who needs such extensive study of every change in the Book of Mormon? I would argue, and I think Skousen would agree, that as the foundational text of our faith—the “keystone of our religion,” in the words of Joseph Smith—knowing the precise language of the text in its original form is of utmost importance. It is, after all, declared the word of God in Article of Faith 8.  Still, I can imagine that most people do not need all the thorough analysis involved here. So can Skounsen, which is why he made the ultimate fruit of his analysis—simply the text of the Book of Mormon in what is most likely its earliest form—available in a single volume, without all the extra analysis, called The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, published by Yale University Press in 2009.

While Yale’s Earliest Text edition of the Book of Mormon will serve most needs, anyone who wishes to engage serious study of the Book of Mormon—academic or otherwise—will no doubt find that at times, having the extend analysis would be helpful. This is especially so if one is making academic arguments, or even merely personal meditations on the text, which hinge on specifics of vocabulary and grammar. Yet, the monumental size of the ATV has naturally made it costly—$300 for the whole set—and difficult to access to. Until now. As of October 7, 2014, the entire ATV was made freely available online via the Interpreter Foundation.

Dr. Skousen and Interpreter are to be commended for making this landmark in Book of Mormon scholarship widely accessible any and all Book of Mormon students, from the most erudite scholars of the text, to average members of the church who would simply like to get closer to the text of the Book of Mormon as God revealed it to Joseph Smith. In doing so, they have rendered for the Latter-day Saints and the community of scholars who study Mormonism a great service. I would encourage every Latter-day Saint to explore it and get familiar with the ATV and learn to use it, at least occasionally, in their study of the Book of Mormon.

Articles of Faith 16: Margaret Blair Young – The Heart of Africa and The Welcome Table

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Margaret-Blair-Young-150x150Margaret Blair Young was raised in the Church and learned the standard Mormon clichés and customary phrases of a Mormon testimony. As a child, she could imitate the strokes and expressions of Mormonism well, in time she came to understand these were expressions of an immature, inexperienced faith. Time propelled her further into the faith. In time she began to be immersed in more controversial areas of LDS history: race issues and the priesthood restriction, keeping those of African lineage from receiving the priesthood or temple blessings for over a century. She wrote three books and made two documentaries on these subjects with Darius Gray, a black man who joined the Church in 1964, fourteen years before the restriction was lifted.

Margaret Blair Young is the past president of the Association for Mormon Letters and has published eight books—novels and short stories. Three of these were co-authored with Darius Gray and give the history of Black Latter-day Saints. She and Gray also made the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. She has written six encyclopedia articles and other scholarly papers on Blacks in the western USA, and particularly on Black Mormons. She used to teach creative writing at BYU but now travels the world in her off time.

Questions addressed during the interview:

You just got back from Africa. Where were you and what were you doing there?

How is the church doing in Africa? What is it like on a day to day basis?

What are some of the difficult questions or situations for which the African Saints are seeking answers or solutions?

There is an article on your blog through patheos, The Welcome Table, the article is entitled Developing Spiritual Taste. In your world travels and in your film directing efforts on church related themes, you have no doubt encountered critics or at least statements that seem to be critical of at least perceptions of church doctrines and culture. You even address the motivation for the article, at least in part, by offering this brief anecdote: When I was in my late twenties, someone said to me, “You’re too smart to be a Mormon.” Clearly, I’m not. But the picture of Mormonism this person had in mind does not represent the kind of Mormonism I live.” What is the kind of Mormonism that you live, the kind that you layout in this article?

You talk about, in your Mormon Scholars Testify Page, a story where your husband once gave you a priesthood blessing during a particularly trying moment. He said these words: “I bless you that your memories will be sanctified as the larger picture unfolds, and you will view all of the difficulties and trials you’re enduring now with gratitude and love.”This is the blessing of perspective. It illuminates not only my personal history, but the hard historical episodes of my religion. What has that blessing meant in your research into as you put it, the more controversial parts of Mormon History?

Margaret Blair Young is the author of several titles as well as director and producer of several documentaries on the history of Black members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Click here for more information on Margaret Blair Young’s upcoming Film Project, The Heart of Africa.

Click here to read from Margaret Blair Young’s entries at Patheos under the heading, The Welcome Table.

Fair Issues 71: Were there transoceanic voyages in ancient times?

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MAWhile LDS scholars agree with non-LDS scholars that the New World was populated primarily by humans who traversed the Bering Strait thousands of years ago, a growing number of non-LDS scholars agree with LDS scholars that there was transoceanic contact between the Old World and the New Worlds in ancient times.

In the podcast brother Ash explores the evidences for cultural, linguistic and botanical discoveries that confirm such voyages did take place in both directions between the 7th millennium B.C. and the European age of discovery.

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore. Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon


4th Watch 17: A Broken Vessel – What is anxiety and PTSD?

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4thWatch SmallIn the last podcast I talked about depression and now add anxiety and PTSD will be added to the mix of mental and emotional issues we may have to deal with in this life.

These issues can cause cognitive dissonance in our relationship with the Lord and His Church and create unintended consequences from our perceptions of world.  We often don’t see the world the way it is.  We see it more as we are.  If we are viewing our life as full of danger and threats it may be because we have experienced events in our lives that foster those feelings.

In this podcast we look at possible causes of anxiety and post traumatic stress and the counsel we have received from Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the counsel of the twelve apostles.

The book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold S. Kushner along with other books he has written is available here.

As always the views and opinions expressed in this podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that or FairMormon


Faith and Reason 25: Unknown Arabia

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 Photo of Khawr Kharfut by Scott Proctor (http://www.ldsmag.com/article/14965/1)

From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith

By Michael R. Ash

How easy would it have been for a young man in 1830 to write a novel about the ancient Old World and have it stand up to scrutiny nearly two hundred years later? When Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon the best scholars of his day knew little about the ancient world in which the Lehites traveled through southern Arabia. The few bits of information available were generally wrong and almost consistently described Arabia as a barren wasteland. According to some authors, Arabia was so hot that animals were roasted on the plains and birds in midair. The southern coast of Arabia was thought to be dismal and barren –nothing but rocky wall. It was said that not even a blade of grass could be grown along the coastline. If Joseph had written the Book of Mormon with information sponged from his environment, he would have turned to the so-called experts of his day. So inaccurate were the experts of 1830 America, however, that if Joseph has sponged their information he would have produced a book filled with errors.

Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of MormonFortress.com and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt.  He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton  is a broadcast journalist living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, Radio and Television Host, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.

Mormon Fair-cast 297: #5, Is the Bible an authentic source of truth?

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i-believe-podcast-karen-239x300In this fifth of nine podcasts with D.M Johnson, we’ll examine the various methods historians use when studying ancient texts. D.M. and I address the following methods:

  • Multiple attestation: having multiple ancient sources talking about the same event

  • Early attestation: having an ancient source or sources that date close to the time an event is thought to have happened

  • Disinterested testimony: having a source from a writer who was completely detached and unbiased

  • The criterion of dissimilarity: when a historical figure does something against the social norms of his/her time period

  • The principle of embarrassment: when something embarrassing or incriminating is recorded about a historical person

  • Enemy attestation: when an enemy of a cause or group writes something about that cause or group

We’ll talk about each of these methods and how using them with the Bible can help give us confidence that it is true.

Click here to view the complete transcript.

This series of podcasts were produced by the “I Believe” podcast group. They are used by permission of Karen Trifiletti the author of this work.

As always the view and opinions expressed in this podcast may not represent those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint or that of FairMormon

Fair Issues 70: What was Nephi’s ship like?

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MABrother Ash discusses how Nephi was instructed to build a ship to take his family to their new land.  The ship was not to be built “after the manner of men” but according to the Lord’s instructions.  There are few clues in the text as to what this ship may have looked like but several types are explored in this episode.

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore. Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon


“Meet the Mormons” Hits its Mark

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Meet the Mormons

I don’t often like documentaries. And I don’t usually look forward to seeing Church films. I felt compelled to see “Meet the Mormons” probably for the same reasons I feel compelled to vote. Not because I really believe that my vote will be the one to put my candidate in office, but because I feel a civic (in this case, religious) responsibility to lend my support to a cause in which I believe. But although I was skeptical of how much I would enjoy the film, I was pleasantly surprised, and even moved, by “Meet the Mormons.” However, perhaps predictably, the movie critics have not been very supportive.

As I’m writing this, “Meet the Mormons” has tanked at a zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes. (Interestingly, out of 2,599 ratings, it has a 91% positive score from audiences.) Every reviewer from the New York Times to the Salt Lake Tribune agrees that this movie is simply an extended infomercial: A “slick” production that does not confront the more “controversial aspects” of the religion’s past.

It seems that when a movie critic is forced to acknowledge that a movie has high production value with great music and gorgeous cinematography, but the critic does not want to give a positive review, he will say that the movie is “slick.”

The only real criticism of the movie is that it does not go into more depth into the history, doctrine and practices of the Mormons. The critics seem especially put out that the Mormon Church has not produced a documentary about how racist, homophobic and paternalistic the Church is. However, to criticize “Meet the Mormons” for not being a stark expose of Mormonism seems a bit like criticizing “The Godfather” for not having enough song and dance numbers; or criticizing a “Fast & Furious” movie for not providing enough thoughtful social commentary. It is criticizing a movie for not being something it did not purport to be.

This is “Meet the Mormons.” It is not “Mormon Doctrine 101” and not “Mormonism Exposed!” It is intended merely to be an introduction to a handful of diverse individuals who are Mormons who have interesting stories, and who give the audience a good idea of what Mormons are like. And as a Mormon, this introduction felt authentic to me. I did not feel like these people were pretending to be something they were not. Although there were some aspects of their lives that were unique and unusual, they were very much like Mormons with whom I associate every day.

Of course, when you first meet someone, they typically put their best foot forward. You may or may not have a good first impression, but, unless you are naïve, you don’t believe that you are able to glimpse deep inside the soul of the person from a first meeting. And you would not be shocked or offended if they did not share all of their faults in that first meeting. Nevertheless, you would hope to feel that the person you are meeting is being genuine. And if after a first meeting, you are interested in learning more, the introduction has probably been successful.

The common theme among movie reviewers is not that the movie failed in its method of presentation. But that the movie left them wanting to learn more. The reviewers seemed uniformly impressed with the people they met. They simply wanted more to know more about them, how they lived and what they believed. Rather than a sign of failure, it seems to me that for a movie that purports only to be an introduction, this is a sign of success.