The Gospel presses forward while it seems we are stuck in ‘Groundhog Day’

One of my favorite movies is “Groundhog Day,” which I have written about on this blog. As many readers will know, it is about a cynical weatherman (played by Bill Murray) who is forced to relive the same day over and over again until he becomes a better person.

The lockdowns have turned the world into “Groundhog Day” for many of us, but of course there is hope, and that hope was made very clear in the words of the prophets over the weekend.

I am still trying to wrap my head around 20 new temples being announced in places like Grand Junction, Colorado and Elko, Nevada. Before the pandemic I went to the temple at least twice a month, and it was usually the highlight of my week. Stuck in these lockdowns, I find it difficult to imagine ever going again, but clearly we will go again, and the thought brings tears to my eyes.

President Nelson’s talk Saturday night during Priesthood Session penetrated my stony heart. It seemed to be aimed right at me. The prophet’s optimism and his accentuation of the positive during the lockdowns gave me hope and reminded me that the suffering of this time will be a blip in the eternities. In terms of the Gospel, things will return to normal soon.

President Oaks’ inspired defense of the US Constitution was a much-needed reminder at a time when so many people seem to think the government should control the actions of others. President Oaks reminded us that the Constitution is about individual rights protecting us from government tyranny.

The international flavor of the Sunday morning session was uplifting and a reminder that we are a growing and worldwide Church.

As the prophets reminded us, we have much to look forward to in the days ahead. This uplifting message was perfectly timed and well-received by so many people. My testimony of the inspiration of Church leadership has never been stronger.

April General Conference #genconf

In a few minutes, we will have the chance to participate in General Conference. I almost miss the days when we would live-blog conference. I have fond memories of sitting in darkened chapels, typing away at my computer keyboard, giving you my synopsis of what I was taking away from the session.

But now any of us with modern devices can listen and watch live from whatever corner of the world we are in. Just go to ChurchofJesusChrist.org and click on the Conference stream image (above). And if we can’t participate to the live stream, we can access recordings of the live stream immediately afterwards.

May you have a wonderful Conference weekend and a Holy Easter Sunday!

The Peace and Hope of Easter

Pres. Nelson has shared a message today, on Palm Sunday, as we being this Holy Week in preparation for Easter and General Conference next weekend.

As General Conference will be all online again, make sure you’re ready to go at home. Invite friends to watch with you online or in your home, and share this video on your social media channels.

To the Hebrews

One of the delights of moving to home-focused, Church-supported study is implicit permission to take your own studies far beyond the level that is appropriate for a general audience meeting for less than an hour in Sunday School.

On April 16, BYU Studies will be releasing a much-anticipated commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, which was the subject of an entire online conference broadcast on March 6, 2021. 1

When I was provided an advance copy for review, I didn’t understand why a commentary on 13 chapters in the New Testament could justify a book that runs nearly 900 pages. But gamely I dove in.

The Gem Painted in Pauline Authorship

The Epistle to the Hebrews is commonly attributed to Paul. But the early fathers noted that the Greek of this epistle is more elegant and refined than Paul’s rather blunt language. It is as if one were to read something written by Neal A. Maxwell and be told it was the work of Bruce R. McConkie.

This beautiful and powerful early epistle clearly could not be entirely attributed to Paul. At best, it was an epistle that someone with a better command of Greek could have written based on the teachings of Paul, himself.

For hundreds of years, Christian leaders struggled to find a way to canonize this precious document. There were those who argued it had to be Paul, despite the wholly different nature of Greek usage. Eventually those who didn’t agree the author was Paul felt it was more worthy to include the Epistle to the Hebrews than to allow this gem to be excluded because its unknown author could not be known to be an apostle.

[The unknown author of the Epistle to the Hebrews refers to himself as a man, so no spinning feminist theories about this one.]

Why read (buy, study, delight in) this Commentary?

The Epistle to the Hebrews was written to children of converts, pleading for them to remain true to Christ. All of us who have embraced the baptism of Christ benefit from the author’s plea to reject today’s faithless ones, embrace Christ, and unite with the faithful from the beginning of time.

Continue reading

Notes:

  1. The BYU Hebrews Commentary Conference is available on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXbAVRWvW61YxGGxH2xqj1MulRbjefwqs.

The bizarre Huntsman lawsuit against the Church over tithing

I want to recommend this excellent article from Public Square Magazine regarding James Huntsman’s strange lawsuit against the Church regarding tithing.

Here are the key paragraphs:

Huntsman sets the tone for his lawsuit in the very first paragraph by including a bizarre quote about honesty from early Church leader Brigham Young. Throughout the complaint, Huntsman put his personal outrage and the most salacious details in a bold-italicized font so that anyone perusing the suit could quickly get a sense of the purported “fraud” and “greed.”

For 13 pages, Huntsman rambles on without specificity, without evidence, and without explaining how he personally was harmed—the cornerstone of any civil action. In legal terms, Huntsman failed to plead sufficient facts to state a claim for fraud and thus his complaint is deficient. The Court will have no choice but to dismiss the lawsuit. Huntsman’s clumsy and bumbling complaint signifies to me that he filed this suit merely as a publicity stunt without any sincere intent to recover his monies.

The writer is a former outside counsel to the Church who knows her stuff. More from the piece:

James Huntsman knows his tithing donations were voluntary and fall under the legal definition of a gift. He knows the Church has no legal obligation to return his tithing. He knows that the return of his tithing has tax implications, and he would most likely have to file years of amended tax returns to remove any deduction claimed.

But most importantly, I believe Huntsman knows that if he had sincerely sent his tithing refund request to Church leadership, they would have absolutely worked with him toward a positive resolution. There is no plausible reason Huntsman needed to file a baseless, improperly pleaded claim in federal court other than in an attempt to embarrass the Church. The only person who should be embarrassed is James Huntsman.

Huntsman’s lawsuit will certainly go down in history as another weird chapter in the “people lose their minds when they get angry at the Church” story. That story started in the days of Joseph Smith and continues, sadly, today.