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Last week, with electrode-studded headbands strapped to their scalps, three percussionists banged out a cacophony of sound and rythm at a performance/neuroscience experiment titled “trio for percussion and brain waves.” As a rapt audience watched, sounds issued fro three laptops connected to the drummers by Bluetooth technology. The musicians’ brainwaves travelled through the air, triggering tones from the computers before leaping to life on the 12-foot-high screen hanging behind them. The performance was part of an experiment designed by David Sulzer, a neuroscientist at New York’s Columbia University. It demonstrated his idea that thinking about an action could stimulate the brain in much the same way as carrying it out.” Source: TheScientist.com

David Sulzer’s idea?   I think it’s a bit older than that.

“He that looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart. “  (Matt. 5:28, 3 Nephi 12:18, D&C 63:16.)

My Prediction for General Conference

I can’t believe it’s conference time already. I just finished reading last conference’s talks (I’m redundant, I listen as much as possible, tape it, and read it in the Ensign—you’d think I’d be translated by now). Read more »

Book Review: “Money, A Memoir” by Liz Perle (and a few personal questions)

My daughter asked me awhile back how much money Bill and I had in our retirement account.  I got my back up, just like a little old lady who’d been asked if she masturbated and said, “I don’t discuss my finances.”

And I don’t.  I, who am so open about many other things in my life, find the very word “money” embarrassing.    It could stem from being so poor as a child.  Poverty is shameful.  My mother used to borrow from people and never pay them back.  I recall very clearly as a little girl, seven or eight, cringing in embarrassment, but hoping they’d lend her the money to buy bread because we were hungry.  Of course she never repaid her debts. Read more »

RSR Conclusion: Joseph Smith and Naturalist History

In my concluding post on Rough Stone Rolling, I thought we’d explore the question of history and how (or even if) it can illuminate religious faith. What are the duties of a scholar? What is naturalistic history and is it always bound to offend believers? Can history arbitrate the truth claims of a religion? Does a book like Bushman’s help us learn more about Joseph Smith and help deepen our faith?

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Sorry! We just can’t trust men

I have been on the fringes of Primary for years, so the policy that men ought not be teaching Primary classes alone make some sense–personally, I think we should be two deep regardless of gender. Obviously, we want our children to be safe.

Yet, if I were a man, I think I would have a hard time with this as that gender has been singled-out as dangerous. Read more »

What About Obama’s first name?

We have heard a lot of controversy about using Obama’s middle name, Hussein (most people probably don’t even know who it refers to), but few have inquired about where his first name comes from (Newsweek this week talks about how Senator Obama switched from referring to himself as Barry to Barack, but never tells you what Barack means.) So here, perhaps for the first time, you can learn what his first name means and where it comes from.

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Guest Post from mfranti: On Missionary Motives

mfranti is an FMH friend of ours who drops in from time to time, and she asked me to pass this along for comment:

My husband and I rarely talk about the Church. He’s happy to be half Mormon (the other half Lutheran) and he’s willing to accompany me to church on occasion as long as it’s not a powder day; we are there on time and I agree to iron his shirt-In that order, but we just don’t discuss my religion unless it has to do with YW’s, mutual or why I missed Sacrament-again. Read more »

More on the Ugly English of the King James Bible

In my last post I called the King James Bible “crap”, partly because of its poor English, and partly because its translators do violence of the underlying text, so that their translation destroys whatever literary or poetic structure was present in the original language.

There seems to be some remaining misunderstanding about this. At least a few commenters claimed that the alleged literalness of the KJV somehow preserves rather than destroys the structure of the biblical texts and their accompanying nuances. To illustrate that this claim is mistaken, let’s look at the first chapter of the Epistle of James, which I’ve included at the bottom of this post in a parallel presentation of the King James and the New Revised Standard Versions.
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In which God cuts our throats

Dark Night

On a darkened night,
Anxious, by love inflamed,
— O the sheer grace! —
Unnoticed, I took flight,
My house at last at peace and quiet.

Read more »

Best Holiday Candy All Year

Put away your Peeps. I have no interest in your chocolate oranges. Candy corn is downright disgusting. If you hurry, you may be able to find a few more bags of the candy of the ages Read more »

Parenting as Politics

A few years ago I devised a clever way to get my kids to “share” their dessert with me: the Dad Tax. I gave a simple explanation of what a tax is, and then I began levying taxes on everything from cookies to Halloween candy. When my kids have, say, a cookie, I simply announce, “Dad Tax,” and then take a part of the cookie for myself. I’ve been imposing the Dad Tax for a few years now, and while my kids are not happy with it, they have more or less resigned themselves to the fact that they owe and must pay the tax. Perhaps somewhat unfairly, the Dad Tax is unpredictable. No flat rate here, folks. Sometimes the Dad Tax is especially onerous, often depending on how hungry I am at the moment. Read more »

In Our Image

Well, they noticed that most Africans were going to hell because they could not accept the true religion because it was being taught by foreigners. So, Jesus accepted to be reborn as an African and teach us in a way that we can understand. Now we can be taught the gospel through our culture and not go to hell.

— My colleague explaining his religion, Legio Maria

The sect is based on the idea that Jesus was reborn as Simeo Odeto, probably in the 1940s. His mother is reputed to be a virgin and the young Simeo is said to have made animals out of mud that then turned into real livestock. When Simeo, by then known as Baba Messiah, died, his followers awaited his resurrection. They are still waiting.

I understand making Christ over in our own image. Read more »

What Parts of the Joseph Smith Story Should be Suppressed?

Most of these postings on Joseph Smith’s history and Bushman’s biography of him have focused on the interplay between scholarship and faith. Here let’s turn the focus completely inward: Are there parts of Joseph Smith’s story that are so damaging we should avoid discussing them outside the domains of specialists, assuring that the rank-and-file members never hear anything that might trouble their faith? Does Bushman focus too much on the earthy and unflattering aspects of Joseph Smith’s character in his book? Should we counsel our Latter-day Saint friends and neighbors of fragile faith to avoid this book?

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Update the LDS Study Bible — Please!

The King James Version of the Bible (hereafter KJV) is crap. It’s a sketchy translation from an era in which scholars were largely ignorant of the nuances of ancient languages and understood little of the provenance of major biblical texts. To be sure, the KJV has (brief) moments of unsurpassed eloquence, but on the whole its Jacobean English is ham-fisted and at times it is altogether unintelligible.

The popular myth is that the language is brilliant, but archaisms make the text difficult for the modern reader. In other words, if one doesn’t enjoy reading it, it’s her fault. Read more »

Bushman on the Missouri Persecutions

One of the questions I’ve had for a long time is what caused the Missouri (and Nauvoo, and Kirtland) persecutions. As a believer, I think it’s pretty clear that many of the neighbors of the early Mormons were clearly possessed by Satan, stirred up to the most incredible, out-of-proportion vitriol. But that characterization isn’t a historical argument. If we say that is the proximate cause, which I think is plausible religiously, it still doesn’t answer the question historically. So why did the Mormons provoke such persecutions? It’s indisputable that Mormonism was (is?) far and away the most persecuted religious sect in American history, and America has been full of oddball religions. Was it simply that Mormonism was too successful? Or did the Mormons invite this persecution somehow?

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The sign ¶ (or pilcrow) appears at the beginning of many verses in our King James Bible.

For example in Genesis Chapter 1 we see:

6 ¶ And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

I rarely think about the ¶. I usually ignore the ¶. Read more »

Lowering Our Standards or Becoming More Reasonable?

Reading Jeff Bennion’s post on Jospeh Smith and the Apocalyptic I noticed he mentioned building a year’s supply. This caused me to remember a conversation I recently had.

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Jeremiah Wright, and Brigham Young, and Samuel the Lamanite, and Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, and Boyd K. Packer, and Isaiah

At the History News Network, Ralph Luker makes a valuable point.

Jeremiah Wright’s words, if read politically, are poison. They outrage Americans who are accustomed to thinking and reading first as citizens of a country with noble ideology and honorable commitments. American political language is about exhortation to higher things, reminding us of the beauty of our ideals and praising our heritage.

However, if read another way, Wright’s rhetoric is not political. It is religious. It belongs not to the incendiary drama of the campaign trail, but in the genre of prophecy. It is jeremiad: that form of preaching named for the prophet of fallen Jerusalem. It cries out against moral ills, locating in them the roots of communal weakness, and calls the members of that community to repentance.

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Joseph Smith and the Apocalyptic

On a separate post we were discussing whether Joseph Smith was a mystic. I was delighted with the thoughtful and interesting discussion that followed. That thread is one of those cases where many of the comments surpass the original post in both quality and rigor of thought. Whether you think Joseph Smith was a mystic or whether you agree with me that he wasn’t, I think it’s undeniable that many of the texts cited as being mystical are more properly considered apocalyptic.

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A Shameless Publicity Stunt and Questions on Authority

Yesterday I gave a sacrament meeting talk on personal revelation, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Dan Ellsworth wrote something on this thread I really liked that was related to this issue, so I decided to quote him. And I openly cited the source as follows: “On the popular Church-related website Mormon Mentality, blogger Dan Ellsworth wrote…”

Setting aside the shamelessness of my publicity stunt, can the Bloggernacle be a legitimate source of authority? Read more »

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