Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review of The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Israelite Temple (Baker)

LeGrand Baker's book The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Israelite Temple utilizes John Lundquist's nineteen points from "The Common Temple Ideology of the Ancient Near East" to illustrate the Book of Mormon as a temple text. This book is not to be mistaken for his co-authored book with Stephen D. Ricks, entitled, Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord? The Psalms in Israel's Temple Worship in the Old Testament and In the Book of Mormon, which has received favorable reviews. This book is limited to just 155 pages (contrasted with Who Shall Ascend... at just under 800 pages). To be perfectly candid about the content of this book, I have to say that it felt contrived. The author's attempt to describe the Book of Mormon under Lundquist's 19 points made for an intriguing proposal, but his methodology came off as too forced in its attempt to make the Book of Mormon fit the pattern on most points. I do believe that the Book of Mormon can serve as an excellent temple text, and I think that Baker had some interesting points throughout the book, but overall, I wouldn't recommend this book. If the book had a good editor, and the thoughts and points of contact were better developed, it could have been a better book, but it felt more like a self-published book that was underdeveloped. Nonetheless, the following thoughts and references seemed worthy of preservation: 

After quoting C. Wilfred Griggs regarding the Greek word for 'cross' being the same as used for the 'tree' of life in the Septuagint,1 Baker writes:
From that, we can understand Nephi and Alma's statements about the fruit of the tree of life and of the waters of life. If the cross is the tree of life, the Savior's body on the cross is as the fruit of the tree, and his blood as the waters of life. It is this symbolism that defines the tree, the fruit, and the waters of life each as "a representation of the love of God." (pg 44)

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Wheat and the Tares - Reactions to the First Vision

"A discerning reader responds to a text by breaking it apart . . . 
and separating the divine wheat from the worldly chaff."1 

Why do we respond the way that we do? 

I don't remember when I first realized that there was more than one account of Joseph Smith's First Vision, even though I actually learned of the fact that more than one account existed when I first watched BYU's 1976 production, The First Vision: The Visitation of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith (starring Stewart Petersen):

In all likeliness, most members of the Church living today probably learned that there was more than one account of the First Vision from this video as well, even if this observation generally hasn't been recognized. While the typical Latter-day Saint is familiar with the canonical account of the First Vision in Joseph Smith-History, some events are depicted in this video that are not in the canonical account. For example, the 1835 account of the First Vision (transcribed by Warren Parrish, and related by Joseph Smith to Robert Matthews, "Joshua, the Jewish Minister"), includes the following details (spelling and punctuation standardized):

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Review of The God Who Weeps (Givens)

Terryl and Fiona Givens' book, The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, is an excellent philosophical and theological exploration on 'how Mormonism makes sense of life.' A few gems from this highly recommendable book follow:

Premortality in the decision to embark on a mortal sojourn does not eliminate the problem of evil, but it dramatically alters it. If we were involved in the deliberations that culminated in creating and peopling this world, then we are not passive victims of providence. We would have entered into the conditions of this mortal state aware of the harrowing hazards mortality entails.
Such co-participation does not mitigate the horror of what many experience in this life. The enormity of evil may still appall and confound us. God's failure to intervene may distress and alienate us. Our personal experience of loss and loneliness may overwhelm us. But the suspicion that we were party to the terms of our own predicament may give heart when no other solace is to be found. (pg 53)