This is a guest post by Reid Litchfield.
The Pesher Nahum scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q169) makes cryptic references to a group called ‘The Seekers of Smooth Things’. The theories about who these people were have some fascinating implications for the Church today.
I enjoy biblical history and have recently been studying the transitional period between the Maccabean Revolt and its resulting Hasmonean Dynasty and the Roman takeover of Judea. Over the course of this study, I encountered a quizzical group known as The Seekers of Smooth Things. The story of this obscure sect of Judaism, and their relevance to us today, begs to be told. But first, some background [1.When possible, I have tried to use numismatics to provide faces to the names in this post.] . . .
The Transition from Persian to Greek Rule
Following the death of Alexander the Great [2.
Alexander III of Macedon. This coin, minted by Lysimachos, is thought to be one of the most accurate likenesses of Alexander the Great. There was a tendency for the successors of Alexander the Great to portray themselves as looking like Alexander in an attempt to legitimize their rule. As a result, stylistically many of the obverse images on the coins of the Ptolemies and Seleucids are similar to the this coin in style and appearance.], his vast kingdom was divided up among his generals, with Ptolemy [3.Ptolemy I Soter (305 – 282 BC)] taking Egypt and Seleucus [4.Seleucus 1 Nicator (306-281 BC)] taking Syria. Judea found itself in the middle of territorial battles between these two quarreling Greek armies. Ultimately Judah was conquered by the Seleucids, but the Jews continued to be unapologetically Jewish in their customs and religion. This proved to be very problematic for their new Greek masters.
This morning, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held a news conference to make a statement regarding Laws, Religious Rights, and the Individual Rights of people who identify as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender).
Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the Twelve Apostles of the church, introduced the conference, saying that such news conferences are relatively infrequent and usually called only to make an announcement or when they have something significant to say. He clarified that no changes in doctrine or policy were being announced, but that the church did have something significant to say regarding the increased tensions between advocates of religious rights and advocates of gay rights.
Short statements were then given by Sister Neill F. Marriott of the church’s Young Women general presidency, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Twelve Apostles of the church, and Elder Jeffery R. Holland, also of the Twelve Apostles.
Video of the conference can be viewed at http://youtu.be/iTLVjL7g7LA?t=48m56s (At this time the video appears not to have been edited from the live streaming, so it starts at minute 48:56) .
This is a guest post by Tom Stringham.
This post is written for what I assume is a small audience. It will be most meaningful to members of the church who, for one thing, are fans of the Harry Potter series of books and, for the other, still feel a little uneasy about Joseph Smith and polygamy after an eventful November. I won’t be able to contribute any more historical insight than has already been given, but I hope to reframe a story that is still mostly unknown to us by considering a fictional story we may know much better.
Specifically, I want to make a comparison (at the risk of coming across a little irreverent) between Joseph Smith and Albus Dumbledore. The reader, then, can put him/herself in the place of Harry Potter, the earnest and good-hearted boy who at one point found himself feeling disillusioned about a man he loved and admired.
One of the most poignant moments in the Harry Potter series is in The Deathly Hallows, when Harry is suddenly confronted with disturbing facts about his headmaster’s past. A journalist in the magical world has published a book called The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, claiming to expose an unseen side of Dumbledore: “Stripping away the popular image of serene, silver-bearded wisdom, [the author] reveals the disturbed childhood, the lawless youth, the lifelong feuds and the guilty secrets Dumbledore carried to his grave.”
M* would like to bring to your attention this talk from Elder Ballard at General Conference in 1999. Given many recent events, this warning is especially timely. Here are some key excerpts:
When we think of false prophets and false teachers, we tend to think of those who espouse an obviously false doctrine or presume to have authority to teach the true gospel of Christ according to their own interpretation. We often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. There are those who, without authority, claim Church endorsement to their products and practices. Beware of such.
Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They “set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Ne. 26:29).
Of such President Joseph F. Smith warned when he spoke of the “proud and self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamps of their own conceit; who interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings” (Gospel Doctrine, 381).
This is a guest post by Dr. Andrew Auman, who holds B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in physics from Utah State University, and a Ph.D. in astrodynamics from the University of Surrey. His research interests include geometric integration, geometric estimation, and attitude and orbital mechanics. He is also a semi-regular contributor to the blog Just An Average Mormon
Recently, a survey by The Mormon Gender Issues Survey Group (TMGISG) has been floating around social media, and I have accepted an invitation to write this guest post as I wanted to weigh in on the discussion surrounding this survey and TMGISG’s approach to their research.
To those unfamiliar with the online dialogue surrounding the research being performed by TMGISG, many individuals are calling into question TMGISG’s research methodologies. The concern is that the wording used in the TMGISG’s survey shows a bias in support of the ordination of women to the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—whose members are commonly referred to as Mormons. Individuals have also expressed concern in the ambiguity of some questions; e.g., what constitutes a “good Mormon”? And there are further concerns that not only do the answers provided on the survey not reflect the most commonly held views on the topics in question, but that at times the only answers provided contain views with which respondents cannot fully agree mixed in with those views to which they do ascribe. That this is the case is acknowledged in the survey. But as these biases, ambiguities, and false dichotomies could easily be removed by the inclusion of additional choices and/or the rewording of current answers, why was the effort not made?
The purpose of this post is to discuss research ethics, and apophasis is not my intent in the above expression of concerns being brought up in the dialogue elsewhere regarding TMGISG’s research practices. May the interested reader peruse the survey and what has been said on the matter for themselves, thoughtfully reflect, and then draw their own conclusions about its phraseology. I simply mention these issues as they are pertinent to the matter of ethics in research, and will be referred to herein without rehashing them for the sake of brevity—brevity being an admittedly relative term.