Monday, February 15, 2016

Vanity of Vanities

A friend of mine asked me to have a look at the Book of Ecclesiastes with particular attention to the third chapter. He was not interested so much in the famous lines that inspired the Byrds hit “Turn, Turn, Turn”, but was instead more curious of the verses that followed that famous passage. In my usual style I could not limit the scope of my examination to such a small area but I had to think of the entire book in context. The following is a brief examination of this wisdom literature.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Death of Santa Claus

I spent today listening to my children sing at their School Christmas event. Two of my children stood quietly without singing during the performance out of protest and I could not not be prouder. I had not asked them to behave in this manner but I am sure the values we have taught them bore a heavy influence in how they perceived the program in which they were participating. In general I keep posts on this blog limited to non controversial scholarship but on this occasion I want to explore the American phenomenon of Santa Claus and lay out my own beliefs on the matter.

Many of my friends have often inquired of either myself or my family members as to why our family does not participate in the Santa Claus tradition. While we try to be kind to our neighbors who hold other opinions, we do not participate in movies or songs that focus primarily on Santa, nor do we keep his icons in our home. Our children are explicitly told that he is not real and we do not approve of his inclusion in Christmas. If asked to participate in Santa related activities they usually respond with something to the effect of “We don't believe in Santa Claus and would prefer to not participate in the rituals of his faith.” Yes, my six year old really talks that way.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Astronomy and the Book of Mormon

The constellation Orion under very long exposure

Examining the use of astronomy in the Book of Mormon is very different from my previous post in that there is little depth that can be explored from a linguistic perspective nor is there much that can be said from a cultural perspective with any certainty. The native peoples of the Americas had a love of the night sky and they used astronomy in construction of sacred buildings, calendar systems, and as a didactic teaching device telling the various sacred stories of their people. In these things they were similar to the old world. However, it is not possible to identify which of these cultural ideas have a direct tie to Nephite and Lamanite society.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Constellations in the Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible makes several references to constellations. Sometimes these constellations are well understood and sometimes they are not. In this entry I want to take a look at four passages of scripture that reference constellations and examine what they reveal to us about the astronomy of the ancient Israelites.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Astrology

With the recent “super blood moon” and a Halloween asteroid (2015 TB 145) hurtling towards the earth, I felt inspired to do a series of posts on astrology and astronomy. There has been some press about Mormons and other Christians predicting the end of the world based on some of these phenomenon. The Church issued a statement and followed up with a blog entry which gives the details of some of that silliness. In my personal life I knew of no members of the church who were at all concerned by the blood moon and in fact I set up my scope in our tightly Mormon neighborhood and had half the ward watching the eclipse with me. The few people I did know who expressed concern were some coworkers, most of whom have no particular religion but seem to enjoy conspiracy theories and most predictions that the world is coming to an end only to disappointedly have to return to work on Monday.

Monday, August 17, 2015

On Seer Stones

This week has had a lot of buzz over the release of pictures of Joseph Smiths seer stone. As I was deeply involved in getting things ready for a trip to Nauvoo and even now am in Navoo as I write this, Church history has been on my mind. I was quite excited when the pictures were released and was soon exchanging excited texts with a friend of mine over the matter. What took me by surprise was the members who were upset about this. Some claimed that they had never heard of seer stones and were deeply bothered that the story was not as straightforward as the Primary lesson they learned as a Sunbeam. Admittedly, much of the concern I was hearing was from the “concern trolls” who never had any faith to loose over the matter but will pine away wringing their hands about the Church's “secrecy”. Somewhere in the mix though there do seem to be some members who legitimately had no clue that Joseph used seer stones. I am legitimately concerned about such members but cannot help but conclude that a lifetime of incuriosity has been the catalyst of their delima more than any action of the Church. I have known about this information since I was a teenager. I would also point out some of the fallacies that are being circulated by would be historians. Let's look at a few:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Return to Old Nauvoo

My family and I are on vacation in old Nauvoo this week. This is the first I have been here in almost 25 years. Much has changed and much has not. For example there is no better cell phone coverage than existed 25 years ago (of course no one had a cell phone then). We arrived on Saturday morning which was the last day of the young performing missionaries on site. These are a bunch of fresh faced kids (18-26) that sing, dance, act, perform in a brass band, and generally lend their youthful exuberance to the atmosphere of the place. I engaged a few of them in conversation and watched their performances with great delight. It is wonderful to have such talent and excitement in the Church. It reminds me of younger days long gone by.