Book Review: Perspectives on Mormon Theology – Apologetics

Book Review: Perspectives on Mormon Theology – Apologetics, edited by Blair G. Van Dyke and Loyd Isao Ericson, Greg Kofford Books

I am an apologist. Ever since joining the LDS Church at the age of 16, I’ve spent countless hours explaining, sharing and defending the gospel of Jesus Christ. After my mission, I used to weekly go to the Salt Lake Temple, where I would spend an hour talking gospel with the anti-Mormon protester that handed out pamphlets outside the Temple Square walls. Nibley’s works were amazing to me. I was a list member on William Hamblin’s Ant-Mormon email list 25 years ago. I am a former member of FAIRMormon, written articles for the More Good Foundation, spent many hours on LDS.Net, have several articles on my own webpage, gave a lecture on the Book off Mormon as an Ascension Text at Sunstone Kirtland, blogged on the Gospel Doctrine lessons at my own blog, and a permablogger here at Millennial Star.

That said, I went into this discussion on apologetics with an open mind, eager to see what several LDS scholars thought. The book is a series of essays on apologetics:

  • Critical Foundations of Mormon Apologetics – Blair G. Van Dyke
  • A Brief Defense of Apologetics – Daniel C. Peterson
  • Boundary Maintenance that Pushes the Boundaries: Scriptural and Theological Insights from Apologetics – Neal Rappleye
  • I Think, Therefore I Defend – Michael R. Ash
  • A Wall Between Church and Academy – Benjamin E. Park
  • Mormon Apologetics and Mormon Studies: Truth, History, and Love – Ralph C. Hancock
  • The Intellectual Cultures of Mormonism: Faith, Reason and the Apologetic Enterprise – Brian D. Birch
  • The Role of Women in Apologetics – Juliann Reynolds
  • Avoiding Collateral Damage: Creating a Woman-Friendly Mormon Apologetics – Julie M. Smith
  • “The Perfect Union of Man and Woman”: Reclamation and Collaboration in Joseph Smith’s Theology Making – Fiona Givens
  • Lamanites, Apologetics and Tensions in Mormon Anthropology – David Knowlton
  • Conceptually Confusion and the Building of Stumbling Blocks of Faith – Loyd Isao Ericson
  • Shifting Intellectual and Religious Paradigms: One Apologist’s Journey into Critical Study – David Bokovoy
  • Toward a New Vision of Apologetics – Joseph M. Spencer
  • Apologetics as Theological Praxis – Seth Payne

The articles discuss several important topics in regards to apologetics and LDS scholarship. The discussions focus primarily on the importance of apologetics, its pros and cons, and whether we should be doing apologetics. The articles include the issues of women in apologetics, whether we should instead focus on Mormon scholarly studies, the differences between good and bad apologetics, boundary maintenance, and where we should go in the future. Continue reading

Upcoming Cosmic Events

Three big astronomical events coming up over the next month.

1. August 20, Sunday, is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2. In 1977, Voyager 2 was launched on a journey to the outer planets. Along with Voyager 1, these two satellites did the first flybys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.  Traveling at over 38,000 miles per hour, Voyager 2 is now 15 billion miles away from earth. It is approaching the edge of our solar system. It will encounter the star Sirius in 300,000 years.

2. The following day, Monday August 21, is a solar eclipse. This is the first major eclipse across the United States since 1918. Beginning in Oregon and passing down through South Carolina, there will be a 70 mile swath of complete darkness across the states. Most of the US will see at least an 80% eclipse (here in Indianapolis, we’ll have 93% coverage). The entire event will be over an hour in length, with the full eclipse only a couple minutes in length.

Be sure to never look at the Sun without proper protection, especially during an eclipse. Regular sunglasses do NOT give ample eye protection. Only special eclipse sunglasses with an ISO 12312-2 rating. I purchased 10 pair on Amazon for $3.99, including shipping. Order now, to ensure they arrive on time.

3. September 5 is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1. Launched 16 days after Voyager 2, its trajectory brought it first to Jupiter, and so it was named V-1. Having traveled 18.5 billion miles from earth, Voyager 1 is the first and only manmade item to leave our solar system (August 2012). It currently is measuring the interstellar gases and winds.

Voyager was part of the plot in Star Trek movie with Captain Kirk finding an alien modified version centuries in our future. I thank Voyager for making me the Trekkie I am today.

The satellites run on a nuclear powered electric motor expected to run down by 2025. After that, they will not have enough energy to transmit anything else to earth. Voyager 1 will encounter star AC +79 3888 in about 40,000 years. The star is further out, but is approaching earth, shortening the time to arrival.

 

The Constitution – 230th Anniversary Edition

On September 17, 1787, the United States Constitution was signed and we became a new nation. Previous to this, we lived under the Articles of Confederation. These articles gave all power to each individual state, but none to the confederation. Without a federal government, issues like common defense, treaties, interstate commerce, and a common currency were not possible. Under the threats of economic collapse and other nations waiting to take over weak states, the Continental Congress gathered. They initially gathered to patch up the Articles of Confederation, but it was soon agreed upon to scrap them and start fresh. Six weeks later, the draft was completed and sent to committee to finish it.

Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing the Constitution, article by article. Others are also encouraged to write posts on the Constitution.

Today, we’ll look at the Preamble.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

1. We the People of the United States – this is the first nation in modern history created and approved by the people. No kings, lords, nor authoritarians imposed their will on the people.

2. In order to form a more perfect union – the Articles of Confederation failed to hold the individual states together. “Not worth a Continental” described the federal government.

3. establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare – herein lies the main purposes for the Constitution. Provide a federal judiciary, handle interstate commerce and disagreements, defense department, and PROMOTE general welfare.

Note that the Constitution and its Amendments constrain the federal government to a certain number of things it can do. The states and local communities are better able to handle most challenges, not as a one-size-fits-all federal program (most of which have grown out of control, are costly, and do not help individuals very well.

To promote general welfare is not the same as providing general welfare. To promote it means to open up the free markets, between states and with other nations. It means having a Federal government that does not overregulate anything and everything.

Also note that the Fed is to promote GENERAL welfare, not specific welfare. This opens up the question of why the Fed is involved in specific welfare issues like healthcare, retirement, education and welfare? Should the Fed be so deeply involved in these, or should they be left to communities and states? Such questions continue in Congress and statehouses, even though many of our federal programs are generations old.

As we look at the articles of the Constitution over the next several weeks, we’ll see exactly what the federal government is expected to do, and what things may be prohibited. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

If I Were President: Healthcare Edition

Today, we’ll discuss healthcare, since the Senate is debating their bill.

The Senate bill is similar to the House bill in many ways. Neither repeals Obamacare, but do repeal many of the mandates.

Four Senators, Paul, Cruz, Lee and Johnson oppose it so far, because the bill does nothing to reduce costs to people and employers. It is not a free market system, which we have not had in over fifty years.

If the following were added to the bill, I would find it acceptable:

First, allow insurance to be sold across state lines. This may be difficult to do, given the 10th amendment.

Second, allow Walmart, CVS, credit unions and other companies to offer insurance plans to their customers. With risk spread out over hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of customers, prices will drop. Just look at how prescription prices dropped from Walmart offering many for four bucks. It takes health insurance needs from employers, where people risk losing insurance when they lose a job.

Third, give a 2 year period for people with preexisting conditions to get insurance without a penalty. Then, every five years after that, have a three month open enrollment for preexistent conditions as a year of jubilee. In this way, those who choose not to get insurance until something serious occurs will not have that expensive monkey on their backs forever, but will pay a penalty for a few years. It gives them incentive to buy now, or take a risk of their own choice. And it will drive down costs.

 

Of course, a pure free market system would be awesome, but probably not attainable at this time.

How would you fix the Senate bill?

 

 

If I were president: foreign affairs edition

If I were president, I would do the following in regards to foreign affairs:

  1. Re-establish President George Washington’s insistence on no long term alliances, and no adventurism in the world. We are not the world’s police force.
  2. Get out of unnecessary wars and conflicts. This would include most of the Middle East. Reduce our 95 overseas bases to about 1/3 that number.
  3. Compromise with Russia. We get out of Syria and most of the Middle East, if they remain neutral towards Eastern European nations. I’d rather we were defending those who are clearly allies, than fighting thousand year old wars between nations run by tyrants and terrorists.
  4. North Korea: Placating NK no longer works, as it has in the past. Today they have a dozen nukes. A decade from now, NK could have 100 nukes, able to hit America. We must tell China that their past methods to control NK have not worked on Kim Jong Un. With the murders of an American and Kim Jong Un’s brother,, and continual efforts to test nukes and guided missiles, NK has shown itself belligerent and a clear and present danger to all its neighbors. We must tell China that either they must depose Kim Jong Un, or we will.
    1. If we must fight NK, the first thing to do after notifying South Korea and Japan, is to send a huge EMP hit on all of North Korea. With systems fried, most of their equipment, missiles, etc., will not work.Then we hit all of their military and government locations.
    2. With dialogue and agreement with China, we replace the government. I’d rather have a peaceful communist nation like Vietnam, than to continue having a crazy megalomaniac terrorizing the area.
  5. Build the wall. Whether electronic or actual wall, does not matter to me. We build it, not to keep good immigrants out, but to control entrance to terrorists and drug cartels.
    1. Create big doors for good immigrants to enter within. Especially encourage young families to enter. Do not give them welfare assistance. Let them work their way up the system, as did my great-grandparents, who came over a century ago from the Ukraine and became farmers in North Dakota.
    2. Require immigrants to being learning English and the concepts behind the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. If they someday wish to be good citizens, they must understand what makes America great (and it isn’t Donald Trump).
    3. Allow immigrants to replace the 50 million aborted babies we’ve had since the early 1970s, paying into Social Security and Medicare. Their numbers will prop up those programs, which currently are on the verge of bankruptcy.
  6. Be an Ensign to the Nations of Freedom and Liberty. George W Bush’s idea of forcing freedom onto other nations proved to be a failure. Barack Obama’s Arab Spring proved to be a failure. We must stop trying to impose freedom onto peoples who are not ready for it. Let them cause their own freedom, with us supplying the inspiration.
  7. Ronald Reagan stayed out of most wars. Yet, he inspired nations towards freedom. When nations prepared themselves for freedom, we were available to teach them how to use it best. We must do the same.Because of Reagan’s method, a billion people experienced freedom. Since then, new failed methods of intervention have enslaved hundreds of millions. Neo-conservatism has failed us, as have progressive interventions.

Such would be my beginning for Foreign Affairs.

How would you manage Foreign Affairs if you were president?