About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

Fasting from Modernity

For the past ten days, many of us have enjoyed a “fast” from social media “and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to [the] mind.” 1

We often think of fasting as depriving ourselves. But when we talk of negative media, we were actually freeing ourselves to focus on the better things rather than the distractions provided by negative or frivolous media. Instead of filling the cornucopia of our life’s hours with negative and harmful distractions, we were able to focus on quieter and often more fulfilling things.

In the first hours/days, I would grab my cell phone, then realizing that I’d uninstalled the app(s) that previously absorbed far too many minutes (hours) of my life. After checking e-mail and finding little of interest, I’d often open the Gospel Library app and start reading the Book of Mormon. On impulse I filled a Saturday with commuting to the temple I hadn’t visited since my local temple closed for renovations. Rather than turning on the radio, I “turned on” the narration for the Book of Mormon.

I feel like a person who has left an evening city of noise and lights to enjoy the quiet nature songs in a field bathed in starlight.

I’ve had a chance to get around to things I’ve been wanting to do. Somehow my distracted self never had the time.

Feel free to share which thing you’ve done or appreciated or enjoyed that your distracted self would likely have missed had you not participated in President Nelson’s suggested media fast.

Notes:

  1. Russell M. Nelson, Sisters’ Participation in the Gather of Israel, October 6, 2018.

Understanding 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi

Yesterday I took the time to attend the temple. Since my local temple is being renovated, attending the temple involved leaving my home before 5 am and returning to my home at 6 pm. I suppose I could have spent less time, but it seemed silly to commute 7 hours to only perform one proxy endowment for my relatives.

During the hours of driving (and the hour waiting between sessions), I chose to listen to the Book of Mormon. I adore the Book of Mormon. And as I’ve read and listened and studied over the years, my appreciation for the Book of Mormon continues to grow. Here are a few tips that occur to me, now that I’ve had a chance to power through the content of the small plates in short order.

1 Nephi

The first book of Nephi is largely associated with the sacred history of Lehi’s call as a prophet and subsequent flight to the Promised Land. I have realized over the years that it is Lehi’s preaching of a Messiah to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant that will bless all the peoples of the earth that makes the people wish to murder him. The Book of Mormon narrative moves away from Jerusalem and the Deuteronomists in short order, but Laman and Lemuel continue to demonstrate how much the Deuteronomists reviled the idea of a Messiah who, as the son of God, would be sacrificed for the world. They also represent the idea that primogeniture should determine rule, rather than righteousness.

After Lehi leaves Jerusalem, I find it notable that he sends his sons back for two things. The first and most important was the word of God, in the form of the Brass Plates. The second and crucial “thing” was the additional persons so that Lehi’s children could have families. Note that Laman and Lemuel were far less conflicted about going back for wives. For our day, I would suggest that when faced with a choice between God and family, the Book of Mormon suggests that God is more important than family, but family is extremely important.

2 Nephi

I don’t know why 2 Nephi starts with a continuation of the sacred history. My husband shared a conjecture he read that 2 Nephi starts with the preaching of Lehi as a sort of parallelism to the way 1 Nephi starts with the preaching of Lehi.

The bulk of 2 Nephi, however, is consumed with Nephi’s record of three testimonies of the Messiah.

Nephi starts with the sermons of Nephi’s brother, Jacob. These are a delight, demonstrating perhaps most clearly the understanding of how Jesus Christ saves all mankind from the transgression of Adam and Eve.

Nephi continues with Isaiah. And this is where many people give up reading the Book of Mormon (when attempting a straight read through). Isaiah is opaque. Even Nephi admits that only someone like himself, steeped in the culture and history from the time of Isaiah to the reign of King Zedekiah, can understand these Isaiah passages. As I was driving or sitting in the temple chapel during these chapters, I couldn’t do what I recommend to you. Get a good alternate translation of the Bible to help for those (man) moments when you say “Whhaaatt?!?!?” (e.g., my husband has been reading The Open Bible, a New KJV with study helps, during our family Bible readings). More thoughts on Isaiah below.

FInally, Nephi gives us his own testimony of the redemption of Israel as a nation, the continuation of a remnant of the descendants of Lehi (despite the eventual destruction of Nephi’s descendants for their wickedness), and the power of Jesus Christ to save individuals. Continue reading

Plain and Precious Things

As many of us embark on a re-reading of the Book of Mormon, I wished to mention a few things to ponder.

The Book of Mormon came forth in a Miraculous Manner

1) Joseph Smith wrote the extant text of the Book of Mormon in 85 days, from 7 June to 30 June, 1829. That is the same number of days we have to read the Book of Mormon between today and 31 December, 2018. 1

2) We have much of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon. This manuscript lacks the erasures and corrections that are present in Joseph Smith’s own writings following June 1829. This is consistent with the account of contemporaries that Joseph would dictate text he reportedly saw written on the seerstone inside his (beaver) hat. These contemporaries insisted that Joseph would resume the dictation each day without any reference to what the scribe had previously written. 2 Continue reading

Notes:

  1. John Welch, “How Long did it take Joseph Smith to Translate the Book of Mormon?“, Ensign, January, 1988.
  2. For discussion of the importance of the use of a skin hat, see my post, The Beaver Skin Hat: How Joseph Interpreted the Plates (2015), and the 2018 podcast where Don Bradley confirmed that Joseph did use a beaver skin hat (Finding the Lost 116 Pages).

#GenConf: M* not live-blogging

In the past, General Conference was broadcast, but you had to wait for days before you could get the video and transcripts.

I’m pretty sure this past conference the content was being made available while I was attempting to live blog. At any rate, when we asked each other about live blogging this time, we collectively didn’t feel the effort met a need, given how rapidly the content is now available at lds.org.

Even though we’re not live blogging this weekend, feel free to comment as you react to the sessions this weekend.

Rumor and a Challenge

While driving in Arlington, Virginia, we passed a building with a sign for the Church on the outside. What, we wondered, was this office building?

Talking with folks the other day, they explained that this is the building for the Singles’ Wards. Space is so tight in Northern Virginia near DC that leaders were prompted to consider how the unique needs of singles allowed them to think out of the box. Or in this case, think in the box, or in the shape of a boxy office building.

Parking is insanely constrained, so congregations are not able to meet simultaneously. The building in Alexandria on King Street holds its first set of meetings starting at 8a, then a second set of meetings starting at 11:30a, and the third and final set of meetings starting at 3p.

If the Church were stagnant or in decline, this wouldn’t be a problem. But the Church is growing steadily. And there’s no place to go.

When I heard the rumor that Conference might bring a realignment from a 3 hour worship format to a 2 hour format, I originally dismissed this as bunk. Apparently the Church had flirted with eliminating Sunday School in the past, but then didn’t change the overarching format. As my husband noted, when the possibility was discussed, Sunday School is the only meeting where men and women study together.

But as I contemplate the space challenges some congregations are facing due to growth, the idea of a shortened block begins to make sense.

At any rate, I am super excited for Conference next week. I have no idea what will happen, but I suspect more will happen than “mere” words of pastoral comfort and exhortation.