Mormons and Scripture Literalism

By Farside [1]

[Many Mormons are] reading the scriptures as if they were written by 21st Century Americans who were schooled in historiography and who placed a premium on getting their facts straight.  They were not and they did not.

The scriptures were written by people who told stories and passed on oral traditions to their children with the primary purpose of conveying important moral principles.  [For example], if you were to confront the authors of Matthew and ask them—”Did the flight into Egypt really occur?”—they would look at you quizzically and say: “Fellow, you’re missing the whole point of the story.”

The evidence that numerous stories in the Bible are not factually accurate—indeed, that they never occurred—is overwhelming.  And, at the risk of ruining Christmas for you, Christ wasn’t really born in a stable or cave—that was a myth concocted about 200-300 years after He was born.  And it is highly unlikely that Joseph and Mary made the journey to Bethlehem.  Arguably, Luke’s real purpose in telling this story was to contrast an earthly king—”In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus”—with arrival of a heavenly one.

“What is the harm in teaching scriptural literalism?”  Apart from the fact that it’s just not true, such a simplistic approach to sacred texts robs them of much of their meaning.  But, sadly, many Mormons equate literalism with truth and can’t deal with the cognitive dissonance of letting it go.  They think that if the scriptures are not factually accurate then they must have been written by fraudsters, in which event the whole house of cards begins to crumble.  This, to me, is not genuine faith.

Is it possible that some of the events that religious scholars dismiss today actually occurred?  Sure. But to refuse to entertain the idea that they did not is to cheat yourself out of much of what the scriptures have to offer.

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[1] from timesandseasons

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A Swing Set for a School in Urco, Sacred Valley, Peru

Two years ago, while visiting Cuzco and Sacred Valley, Peru, we made the acquaintance of Willow, a local guide, and his brother David, a fabricator.  While there, we constructed a swing set at a preschool in the hills above the airport at Cuzco.  Since our departure, the pair constructed a large swing set at a primary school in the upper Amazon Basin.

This last week, another swing set was constructed by Willow and David.  His time it was at a primary school in Urco in the Sacred Valley.

Unloading Swing Set Parts in Urco

Unloading Swing Set Parts in Urco

Students Hauling Swing Set Parts to Installation Site

Students Hauling Swing Set Parts to Installation Site

Students Enjoying the Swing Set

Students Enjoying the Swing Set

School and Completed Swing Set in Urco

School and Completed Swing Set in Urco

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Elder L. Whitney Clayton: What Was He Thinking?

At the Spring 2016 BYU commencement ceremonies, Elder L. Whitney Clayton left the graduates with a strange message.  In an era when the LDS Church is experiencing difficult times, what is Clayton’s message?

  • importance of maintaining connections with families, friends and BYU;
  • importance of not connecting with ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends after one or both members of the failed relationship have married other people;
  • need to guard against the “selfish and gullible” sin of pornography; and
  • need to be wary of former church members who have abandoned LDS teachings.

Why didn’t Clayton create a positive future vision for the Church and the world?  And explain the graduates potential role in that future.

How about highlighting the Church’s current mission to assist refugees around the world?  Or explain that soon, the majority of members will be living in developing countries.  And that there is a critical need to ease the burden of poverty worldwide.

Instead, Clayton tries to create paranoia about relationships with ex-members, etc.  Opportunity lost.

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Raised Mormon: Kip Thorne, Cosmic Visionary

Kip Thorne was recently named to Time magazine’s “100 most influential people” list.

Tribute by Christopher Nolan, Acclaimed Film Director [1]

About 1.3 billion years before Kip Thorne was born, a pair of black holes collided in space, rattling the fabric of space-time itself.  The gravitational ripples of that long-ago cataclysm traveled the universe, heading for an improbable encounter with sentient beings sophisticated enough both to detect them and to recognize their origin.  It was Kip, 75, a Caltech- and Princeton-trained astrophysicist who made that discovery possible.  As the leading founder, in 1984, of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), he played a critical role in developing the instruments that detected the waves and in so doing confirmed a prediction Albert Einstein made a century before.

Kip Thorne, Cosmic Visionary

Kip Thorne, Cosmic Visionary

Kip deflects credit for the breakthrough, pointing to the younger physicists who kept the project running over the years, and they deserve praise.  But as I learned when I worked with him on [the film] Interstellar, it takes a person who can not only understand the science but communicate it to make a project like LIGO happen.  I used to joke that I could talk to Kip about physics for only 45 minutes before my brain would begin to feel hot.  I’d say to him, “We have to come back to this another day.  You’ve used me up.”  As the body of work Kip has produced over his career makes clear, he has the kind of brain that never gets used up–and we’re all better for that.

__________________________

[1]  Time, May 2/May 9, 2016

His biography in wikipedia discusses Thorne’s beliefs concerning religion:

Thorne was born in Logan, Utah on June 1, 1940, the son of Utah State University professors D. Wynne Thorne and Alison (née Cornish) Thorne, a soil chemist and an economist, respectively.  Raised in an academic environment, two of his four siblings also became professors. Thorne’s parents were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and raised Thorne in the LDS faith, though he now describes himself as atheist. Regarding his views on science and religion, Thorne has stated: “There are large numbers of my finest colleagues who are quite devout and believe in God […] There is no fundamental incompatibility between science and religion. I happen to not believe in God.”

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LDS Leadership: Still a Serious Lack of Diversity

After the disappointment experienced by many members of the LDS Church over the recent choice of 3 non-diverse new apostles, the frustration continues.

Three New LDS Apostles Seleccted in 2015

Three New LDS Apostles Selected in 2015

At the Church’s General Conference in April 2016, a new presidency of the Primary (children’s organization) was announced.  They are all blond, BYU clones.  The only difference that the Church press release noted was that one of 3 speaks Portuguese.  In their publicity photograph, they are all dressed in identical sport coats (albeit of different colors) and white blouses.  One does have a slightly shorter hair cut.

The leadership couldn’t find one worthy member from Asia, South America, or Africa to serve in the Presidency?  After all, over half of the members will soon live south of the equator.  Many living in abject poverty.  How can we reach the children outside the United States?

Primary Presidency: 2016 Version

Primary Presidency: 2016 Version

The recent choice to head the LDS Church’s Public Relations department–Richard E. Turley Jr.–is a 60-year-old white male BYU-trained lawyer/historian.  Really?  The PR/PA business globally is in a state of major and rapid change.  A more youthful choice would certainly seem appropriate.  Someone who is more familiar with social media and similar evolving technologies.  Given the Church’s recent and continuous PR snafus, staying the course hardly seems like an appropriate course of action.  Neylan McBaine would have been a good choice to head the LDS PR department.

The LDS Church’s diversity problem was recently highlighted in a statement made by Elder L. Whitney Clayton, a senior president of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Seventy:

Some my present Quorum associates in church service met each other as roommates at BYU and have friendships that extend back for decades.

Perhaps the leadership of the Church has become a little too ingrown?

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DIY: Monkey Rings and Bars

Monkey rings and bars provide an important form of exercise for young children.  They are an important addition to any outdoor playground.

There is an elaborate wooden playground set in a community park in Pleasant Grove, Utah.  It has a wooden-framed monkey ring set.

Monkey Ring Apparatus in Pleasant Grove UT Park

Monkey Ring Apparatus in Pleasant Grove UT Park

The Rings Are Attached to the Horizontal Beam with a Chain

The Rings Are Attached to the Horizontal Beam with a Chain

We constructed something similar near Bluff, Utah, using circular fence posts.   They are attached to horizontal 2x8s using chain-link fence connectors.   The horizontal 4×4 is attached to the 2x8s using hangers.  The rings are attached to the 4×4 using eye bolts and spring clips.  The fence posts are concreted in the ground.

Monkey Ring Apparatus Constructed with Fence Poles

Monkey Ring Apparatus Constructed with Fence Poles

The Monkey Rings Are Attached to the 4x4 Using Eye Bolts and Spring Clips

The Monkey Rings Are Attached to the 4×4 Using Eye Bolts and Spring Clips

This same design can be used to construct monkey bars.  An apparatus using this design was constructed near Bluff, Utah, at St. Christopher’s Mission.

Monkey Bar Apparatus at St. Christopher's Mission near Bluff UT

Monkey Bar Apparatus at St. Christopher’s Mission near Bluff UT

An almost totally wooden version of monkey rings in located in a small wooded park in Marylantod (near Washington DC).  The base is designed so it doesn’t need to be concreted in the ground.

Wooden Monkey Ring Apparatus near Washington DC

Wooden Monkey Ring Apparatus near Washington DC

A simpler version can be welded together using either pipe or conduit.   We saw an example of this at a school playground in Lira, Uganda.  On this particular model, the vertical ladders have at least one too many rungs.

Welded Metal Monkey Bar Apparatus

Welded Metal Monkey Bar Apparatus

Another permutation for monkey rings is to extend a 4×4 between 2 climbing towers.  This configuration was installed at a school near Lira, Uganda.

Monkey Rings Suspended between Two Climbing Towers

Monkey Rings Suspended between Two Climbing Towers

Using Monkey Rings at an Installation near Lira Uganda

Using Monkey Rings at an Installation near Lira Uganda

One way to make additions to a monkey bar unit is exemplified in a large jungle gym unit in American Fork, Utah.  This unit includes monkey bars, chinning bars, fire poles, and ladders.  It can be assembled on site, thus making transportation easier.

Large Jungle Gym Unit at a Primary School in American Fork, Utah

Large Jungle Gym Unit at a Primary School in American Fork, Utah

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DIY: Outdoor Balance Beams

There are several interesting designs for low-cost outdoor balance beams.

Using pressure-treated 4x4s and patio footing hardware, you can install a simple balance beam.  You can interconnect any number of 4x4s, as shown below.

Simple Balance Beam Installed near Bluff, Utah

Simple Balance Beam Installed near Bluff, Utah

The patio hardware can be concreted in.

Patio Footing Used for Balance Beam

Patio Footing Used for Balance Beam

Concreting in the Beam Footings

Concreting in the Beam Footings

There are a variety of permutations possible off this simple design.

Possible Designs for 4x4 Balance Beams

Possible Designs for 4×4 Balance Beams

I observed another interesting balance apparatus in a playground in northern Uganda (installed by East Africa Playgrounds, an English NGO).  It involves the creative use of old tires.

Balance Beam in Norther Uganda Made of Old Tires by East African Playgrounds

Balance Apparatus in Northern Uganda Made of Old Tires by East African Playgrounds

A possible permutation of this design involves a tow strap stretched between vertical short sections of log.  This design could also be used in a slack line configuration, with a thinner strap replacing the tow line.

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