Origins of the Earth and Genesis

HubbleThis guest post is written by a friend of mine, Ken Cluff, who expressed some interest in writing for M* to share some of his thoughts on science and religion. Ken recently made another guest post here about his Mormon website app: LDS Advocate.

Lately, I’ve been going to the temple weekly to get the ordinance work done for a large number of names my mother has gathered in her ongoing genealogical research. This frequency of attending has given me many opportunities to ponder the creation story. At the same time, I’m a science geek and writer of hard sci-fi. The evidence scientists have observed about the origins of the universe is something I’m particularly interested in, especially as it relates to the Earth’s origins.

It’s axiomatic to say the aims of science and religion are the same, the pursuit of truth. Though science tends to be driven by doubt and religion by faith, they both move forward by asking questions. My expectation is that as we come to know the truth of things, we’ll see they both say the same thing… just from different paradigms. From where I sit, science answers and fills in the “what” while religion answers the “why.” Continue reading

Maturing Love and Discipleship

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of people who joined the church right around the time that I did, or shortly afterwards leave the church. Some are people that I taught as a missionary, while others are friends that helped and encouraged me along the way. Some have been prominent in the Mormon blogging community, while others have likely never even seen a Mormon blog. Some have left over controversial topics such as female ordination or gay marriage, while others have taken offense or drifted away for a wide variety of reasons—and really each  person who leaves has a deeply personal reason for doing so.

I’ve reflected a lot lately on the question of why I am still here, while so many friends I know have left.  One of my friends posted a video of a break up song on her blog post announcing her decision to leave the Church, and that got me thinking about the relationship between romance and love, and the decision to join and remain active in the Church.

When people first fall in love, it is filled with frenetic  and passionate romance. It is hard to sleep because you are so excited about your relationship. You can hardly think about anything else. You frustrate your friends, because all you want to do is talk about your beloved. This is a period where you believe that your love can do nothing wrong, and you tend to only see the best things about him or her. It is an exciting time where you see the world through rose tinted glasses.

But anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that these feelings cannot last forever. Eventually, all relationships hit roadblocks. You might learn some facts that make you question the person you thought you loved.  You might feel betrayed or hurt. More frequently,  I think that people just allow those feelings they once had to become routine. Our relationships begin to lose energy and excitement and enter into a rut. We begin going through the motions. We begin to think that we are not appreciated, wanted or needed.

Of course, we can and must continue to have romantic and passionate experiences. You must keep your passion alive. But the kind of head over heels love cannot last. I don’t think our mortal bodies and minds can remain at the same level of raw emotional intensity forever.  If we continue to expect it, we will become discouraged or even despondent without it.

Instead, our love and our relationship must evolve. We must develop a mature devotion to one another. We must learn to see and accept flaws and imperfections. More importantly, we must learn that our relationship is not about us, and that a relationship is more about serving than being served. We must put aside the desire to be constantly happy, entertained, or amused. Put aside childish things and learn to love with a mature love. The scriptural term that I think best defines this love is charity.

So many relationship flounder and eventually die out because individuals fail to make this vital transition from romance to mature love. And I think so many testimonies tend to flounder and die for precisely the same reason.
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Review: The Book of Mormon as History

This is a guest post from Pat Chiu, a life-long Mormon and mother of ten children. Pat has spent several decades engaging the “controversies” regarding Mormonism from an intellectually rigorous and faithful manner. She has post-graduate training in anthropology and is a member of the board of Utah Valley Artist Guild. Her hobbies include carpentry and writing.

Book of Mormon as History coverBrant A. Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History, published by Greg Kofford Books on 6 August 2015.

Gardner writes, ‘Of the myriad possible ways to read the Book of Mormon I choose to read and tell it both in history and as history.’ He finds this enhances its value as a sacred work of scripture.

Dr. Gardner provides copious endnotes and an inclusive bibliography providing information both from his critics and those who have helped him reach his conclusions.

Along with scholars and general authorities such as Neal A. Maxwell, Gardner feels that naïve enthusiasts who espouse and promulgate various theories about its origin and settings (my words), including spurious parallels, have done more damage to accepting the authenticity of The Book of Mormon than have sceptical scholars such as Michael Coe.

Among the factors Gardner examines are climate, geography, linguistics, ancient myths and geophysics including volcanic eruptions, all of which contribute to Gardner’s finding that the Book of Mormon is a historical work. He incorporated much that is available in his six volume work Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon. In The Book of Mormon as History, Dr. Gardner adds additional material and ‘compacts the history so that a reader can get a feel for the real setting behind the Book of Mormon in a chronological framework.’ Continue reading

Mormon gnostics: a must-read talk from the FAIRMormon Conference

I wanted to bring to your attention a very important talk on “Mormon gnostics” at the FAIR conference last week. The talk was given by Cassandra Hedelius, one of those young, smart FAIRMormon volunteers who are helping the organization grow.

We should address the term “gnostic.” Hedelius is using this term the following way:

Mormon Gnostics emphasize personal spiritual effort and de-emphasize the role of the church in spiritual progression. This can lead them to conclude that they have learned a new scriptural interpretation, contrary to what church leaders have taught, or that they have discerned that church leaders and members have strayed, and God has called new leaders or revealed a new means of spiritual progress without prophets. Gnostics try to get at a supposed hidden, deeper truth that most members don’t find due to supposed faithlessness or lack of passion for spiritual things. Gnostics seek for what the scriptures “really” mean, or what prophets are “really” saying, or for teachings that were known a long time ago but aren’t part of modern mainstream belief, perhaps because they were unofficial and hence abandoned, or prophets revealed better understanding.

In real life, a Mormon gnostic might be that guy in High Priests or Elders Quorum who loves to quote some apostle from 1850 revealing some deep secret that is not emphasized today. Or it might be somebody like Denver Snuffer, a dangerous apostate who is leading people away from the Church. The former is relatively harmless; the latter is very harmful.

If you have been around the Mormon blog world long enough, you may have seen liberal Mormons claim that if you are “too conservative” you will end up parroting Denver Snuffer. The claim is of course ridiculous because a conservative Mormon is, by definition, somebody who follows the prophets, i.e., the current prophets speaking at general conference every six months.

However, the Mormons liberals may have a point that *some* Church critics start out from the perspective of trying to be “more Catholic than the Pope” or, in our case, “more Mormon than the prophet.” And this is a tendency that can take you down the wrong path.

Hedelius points out that a Mormon gnostic might start out innocently enough trying to study new things that support the Church. She notices the following pattern:

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Tired of the Age of Reason

Historians define the years when the Western World started to take seriously critical observations the Enlightenment or Age of Reason. From this time came advances in science and more democratic political systems, such as the United State of America. Despite those positives, it also brought the social upheaval of the French and Industrial Revolutions. The mixed impact continues up to present times including the exaggerated idea that only what can be observed by the senses can be true. For a society that elevates reason above the emotions of belief, it doesn’t take much to get an irrational reaction. Push back against the “received wisdom” and see the sparks fly. If there is any proposals that cannot be duplicated or more likely attested to by special authorities, those who believe are considered imbeciles or even mental cases. No one is more derided than a person of religious faith, although certain groups are hated more than others.

Having to accept the new orthodoxy of science and what is defended as facts can becoming suffocating. There needs to be a healthy amount of critical thinking, but the modern version has transformed into hubris and rigidity. Curiosity is now skepticism and neutral observation turned into arrogant triumphalism over supposed ignorance and superstition. Now that the iconoclastic promises of the Enlightenment have more or less been delivered, all that remains is an intellectual uniformity.

Modern thought is an insufferable bore. Skeptics cannot see beyond their own noses, always coming up with unimaginative explanations for things they don’t understand. If rational reason doesn’t work to their advantage then ad hominem “crazy” or “delusional”is used as a mock those who don’t give in to persuasion. Atheists are the quickest to use these tactics by calling any religious person a mental case. Despite popular opinion, religious people in the West are currently much more open minded than others. They have to be in order to survive. Continue reading