Mar 02

What Constitutes True Scripture?

A few weeks ago, a couple of intriguing articles came out addressing some ways to contemplate the origins of different types of text.  Some we know to be historical fiction, as the author of such texts plainly declares them so.  Others claim to be true and authentic.  How can we tell the difference?  These articles give some helpful guidelines and insights.

Here are some excerpts:

“When discussing the meaning of scripture, people often raise the question of historicity. Unfortunately, this is a complicated topic with many distinct yet overlapping issues — issues that are frequently misunderstood or conflated. Historicity essentially means that a person mentioned in an ancient text really lived, that an event really happened, that a place actually existed.

Thus, historicity relates to questions such as, did Moses really exist? Was there really an Israelite exodus from Egypt? Was there a Mount Sinai? Alternatively, one can ask, did a historical Gandalf ever live? Was there really a siege at Helm’s Deep? Was there actually a volcano named Mount Doom where Sauron had his forge and workshop? The issue of historicity is thus an ontological question — a question about the nature of reality as reflected in historical texts.”


“It’s important to realize that not all the books of the Bible present themselves as history. The Bible includes poetry, proverbs, moral exemplars, etc. The book of Job may very well be a work of fiction — a parable of sorts, or a proto-philosophical dialogue. But Job doesn’t present itself as history (though some modern readers have assumed it to be such). That is, if Job is a work of fiction, it’s still authentic, because it makes no internal claim to be historical.

Likewise, in the Book of Mormon, the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 isn’t historical; it presents itself as inspired fiction. The book of Kings, on the other hand, clearly presents itself as authentic history, though it makes no internal claim to inspiration or revelation.”


These two articles present some thought-provoking observations on how we can consider parts of our Standard Works through our careful and prayerful studies.



Jan 23

The Two Best Podcasts I’ve Ever Heard

On the commute in to work, it is nice to listen to something uplifting.  Though there is a lot of great music available, there are also some wonderful podcasts.  I’d like to take a minute to share two that have brought tears to my eyes, they’ve been so incredible.

The first is called “Classic Speeches.”  With selections as far back as 1950, this podcast features the best speeches given in recent Church history.  At first, I attempted to make a note of which ones were the best.  Noticing that I was writing down virtually every one, I abandoned that idea.  Some of the most memorable and doctrinally rich speeches from the latter half of the 20th century and the first part of this one are all packed into this marvelous podcast.

The second is called “Legacy.”  The approach this one takes is to cover as many aspects of history that involve the Church or Church members as possible.  The episodes feature guests who have a particular area of expertise.  They then discuss many things that some folks may not know with regards to that specialty.  For example, there was an episode about Palmyra, New York.  There have been episodes about the Nauvoo Temple, the Pioneers coming across the plains, Saints who have served at war, how the Church preserves old manuscripts, the Church History Library, and a whole slew of other topics.

From these two podcasts I have learned a great many things of which I was not previously aware.  They are full of insightful and uplifting content.  They are of much benefit to anyone seeking excellent podcasts relating to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Links to these podcasts and many others are available from the Audiovisual section of

Oct 09

BYU Religious Education Review

Creating an edifying and uplifting environment and atmosphere for yourself is conducive to your desire to be the best person that you can.  Hanging photos on your walls of the Lord, the leadership of the Church, or temples can serve this purpose.  In addition, informative and worthwhile books and magazines can help perform this function.  Many likely have the Scriptures and the Ensign close by.  But do you have your copy of the BYU Religious Education Review?

From the site, a description of this magazine is given as follows:

“BYU Religious Education Review magazine provides readers with information about BYU’s college of Religious Education, the Religious Studies Center (RSC), the Religious Educator journal, our most recent books published, the latest information from BYU’s Religious Education, including interviews, commentary, articles, advancements, awards, and often features faculty members who are making news and realizing extraordinary accomplishments.”

The subscription for the semi-annual magazine is free.  Those who wish to take advantage of this marvelous resource may do so on the SUBSCRIPTION PAGE.  You may also call 801-422-6975 if you wish to subscribe by phone.

Each issue includes recent discoveries and scholarly developments made since the last issue.  Also included are dates of conferences and symposia that will be held in the six months following the publication of that issue.  The events are generally free of charge, and registration is not usually required.  Take a look at the CONFERENCES AND SYMPOSIA page for further details.

This is a recommended resource for those who wish to keep current on Gospel Scholarship.

Oct 03

The Prophet Speaks – Our Semi-Annual Privilege

first-presidencyTwice each year, we have a unique opportunity to study the Gospel through listening to our Prophet, Apostles, and General Authorities speak to us.  The highest hope of their hearts will be that they speak by the power of the Holy Ghost — that they will convey to us that which the Lord would have us know.  The other half of this principle is that we must have the power and influence of the same Spirit to inspire us with the true meaning of the words that we will hear.

This weekend, as we listen to the talks, perhaps we could keep a notebook handy.  Is this to attempt to write down everything each speaker says?  My suggestion is that it is not.  What if we pondered on each discourse, writing down the inspiration given us by the power and influence of the Holy Ghost about what is being said?  Could this be personal revelation?  Could this perhaps be the Lord’s will concerning us with regards to what is being said?

Should the Lord tell you something directly, wouldn’t you greatly desire to record it for future reference?

This, to me, is a marvelous way to study the Gospel: listen to the revealed word of the Lord through his representatives here on the Earth, receiving revelation of your own at the very same time.  What could be better?

Sep 25

The Church’s Use of Media

A colleague mentioned to me today that it was interesting how BYU is expanding its use of media to share uplifting messages of truth, enlightenment, and intelligence.  My reply to him was that in general, the Church’s use of media lately has been explosive.

How much does the Church use media?  Five years ago, there were few places where one could grab a podcast of something as fundamental as the Standard Works.  There were MP3s here and there.  One could go to BYU Broadcasting and search for talks and discourses one at a time.  But this very day, September 25, 2012, I found no fewer than 90 podcasts relating to the Gospel and members of the Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an entire section of their site dedicated to “Video, Audio, and Images” available to all.  They have not one but several Youtube channels, a number of Facebook pages, a bunch of Twitter accounts, lots of things available on iTunes, and a handful of audiobooks to be posted soon.

As one who loves to collect and listen to audio files of speeches, discourses, devotionals, General Conference addresses, and other such LDS materials, this thrills me.  Through the past few years, I have amassed a collection of about 70 Gigabytes of such content.  What excites me even more is that it is starting to be produced faster than I can listen to it.  To make some attempt at cataloging everything I have found, such types of resources will be placed into the “Audiovisual” section of this site.  As I get more organized, that page should be more intuitive.

Recently, our household was considering ways to cut expenses.  One way was through buying a Roku device.  The one-time purchase provided extra content, allowing us to take our Satellite TV plan to the lowest one available.  Buying a Roku turned out to be one of the best purchases I have ever made.  The reason: The Church has its own channel on the Roku!  In addition, there is a lot of highly informative and uplifting material in the BYU Channel.

The Church’s use of media has exploded in the last handful of years.  I first became aware of this from an address by M. Russell Ballard at the BYU-Hawaii Commencement on December 15, 2007, called “Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet.” (mp3 here)  Since that address was given, all kinds of channels, feeds, podcasts, and other types of resources have been made available to all who wish to have it, most of the time in their own language.  A quick visit to the links provided herein will take you to audio, podcasts, or videos on nearly any topic for which you seek more information.