September 2, 2006

Humility is not convincing yourself you're not the best (even though you aren't)

Taking some instruction from Hugh Nibley and C.S. Lewis, the subject of humility is very interesting. The true nature of humility was described well by Lewis in his book "The Screwtape Letters." The book is a fictional collection of letters written by a senior devil to his young nephew, Wormwood, advising him on how to tempt a man into damnation. If you haven't read it I suggest you do, it's a short book, and really insightful as well as entertaining. At one point in the story, Wormwood's assigned man becomes a Christian. Wormwood is worried, but Screwtape encourages him to exploit the man's newfound religion. He explains how to warp the concept of humility.

You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character. Some talents, I gather, he really has. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. No doubt they are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point. The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible. ~C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)
The true concept of humility does not involve trying to convince yourself that you are not a great person. Individual worth is important. This isn't to say God wants us to be prideful, however. For example, in the Pearl of Great Price Moses is shown an awesome vision of the world and the whole human race. After the vision he is so amazed and says "man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed." God didn't correct him in saying that, but later explained that his very 'work and glory' is to exalt man, because they are all His children. This is a great paradox the gospel presents, that we are the children of God, but are "less than the dust of the earth." (Mosiah 2:25) This conversation God has with Moses demonstrates what true humility is. Other prophets have had similar experiences, and they can help illustrate my point here, as Nibley pointed out. In the Book of Mormon, Moroni said Jesus spoke with him "in plain humility, even as a man telleth another," (Ether 12:39.) Of this experience, Nibley said:
"Now that's what humility is. It is not bowing the knee in the presence of overwhelming superiority, power or glory. Anybody can do that. But it is recognizing that other creatures, small, very unimportant [to you] creatures, are just as good as you are and are on an equal basis with you. That's what humility is. You are listening and you put yourself on the same level with them." (Nibley, Teachings of the PoGP, pg. 214).
Humility is an opposite of pride. I'm talking about the bad kind of pride, not the kind where a dad says "I'm proud of my son," indicating a warm love and appreciation. I mean the kind of pride that sets us up on different levels above other people. President Benson said pride was the universal sin, the one the Saints would likely struggle with most. He's probably right. Pride makes us unaware of those around us who may need some cheering up, or a helping hand. The funny thing about pride is, it believes it is so great, so smart, yet it is not smart enough to even recognize itself. That's where the danger lies. Lewis said it best:
"If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed." (From Mere Christianity)

August 22, 2006

"We contemplate the emancipation of the world": Pratt's 4th of July Oration

For the full version of this post, click here.  
Parley P. Pratt
July 4, 1853

During 4th of July celebration of 1853 Elder Parley P. Pratt's seemingly-failed mission to Chile November 1851 to October 1852[1] was on his mind as he gave a stirring sermon on freedom, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. Parley's comments give us a glimpse of his own personal views on government, America, freedom, and the gospel. He was convinced the Constitution was inspired by God, and could even leaven the "despotic nations" of the entire world:

The longer I live, and the more acquainted I am with men and things, the more I realize that these movements, and particularly that instrument called the Constitution of American Liberty, was certainly dictated by the spirit of wisdom, by a spirit of unparalleled liberality, and by a spirit of political utility. And if that Constitution be carried out by a just and wise administration, it is calculated to benefit not only all the people that are born under its particular jurisdiction, but all the people of the earth, of whatever nation, kindred, tongue, religion, or tradition, that may seek to take a shelter under its banner.
As Ralph C. Hancock explained in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
While LDS scripture reinforces the traditional Christian duty of "respect and deference" to civil laws and governments in general as "instituted of God for the benefit of man" (D&C 134:1, 6), Latter-day Saints attach special significance to the Constitution of the United States of America. They believe that the Lord "established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom [he] raised up unto this very purpose" (D&C 101:80).[2]
Importantly, this view of divine inspiration underlying the Constitution is (or perhaps should be) tempered in LDS thought as being mediated through fallible humans, thus existing as something of a neccessary lesser law until the Millennial reign of Christ when He will rule as King. Eventually, "the darkness which has covered the earth will be chased away, light will prevail, liberty triumph, mankind be free, the nations be brethren, and none have need to say to his neighbor, 'Know ye the Lord,' or the truth, which is just the same thing; for all will know Him, from the least to the greatest."

Such great things would grow out of the small seed of freedom planted in the Constitution; which, in the meantime, would be in the hands of imperfect humans, as Hancock explains:
...New needs and circumstances might require the continued exercise of inspired human wisdom by statesmen and citizens alike. LDS leaders have taught that the Constitution is not to be considered perfect and complete in every detail...but as subject to development and adaptation...President Brigham Young explained that the Constitution "is a progressive—a gradual work"; the founders "laid the foundation, and it was for after generations to rear the superstructure upon it" (JD 7:13-15).[3]
Likewise Pratt seemed to get at the root of a crucial issue in his next comments: the difference between the document on one hand, and the Government (and thus, the interpretation of the document) on the other. "Paper itself cannot enforce its own precepts" he explained, "and unhallowed principles in the people, or in the rulers which they choose, may pervert any form of government, however sacred, true, and liberal...Much depends on the feeling and action of the people in their choice of men and measures, and much depends on the administration of those they may choose."

The principles in the Constitution, then, "embrace eternal truths, principles of eternal liberty" for all people, even "the great, fundamental eternal principles of liberty to rational beings," which Parley listed as "liberty of conscience, liberty to do business, liberty to increase in intelligence and in improvement, in the comforts, conveniences, and elegances of this life, and in the intellectual principles that tend to progress in all lives."

Parley opined on the unlikely story that is America; the few versus the many, the external pressure and internal faction, the hardships in providing for their well-being without the "modern" conveniences of railroad, steamboat and telegraph. Seeing how far America had come, Parley exclaimed "Our hearts beat high for liberty"; millions throughout the nation "dwelling securely under the same banner to celebrate the day on which freedom dawned," the 4th of July. 

Recognizing the "shackles" still hampering humanity in countries across the globe, he believed America could provide an example for the world as a city set on a hill that cannot be hid; encouraging not violent revolutions, which Parley said have been tried in vain, but peaceful emancipation under the influence of God:
When we contemplate the designs of the country, and its influence, we contemplate not merely our own liberty, happiness, and progress, nationally and individually, but we contemplate the emancipation of the world, the flowing of the nations to this fountain, and to the occupation of these elements, blending together in one common brotherhood.
This would not occur through bloody revolution by whole nations, but rather "one by one, family by family" would join and spread the cause of freedom following the example of other free nations of the world, though it would not happen for "a long time." Thus, Parley coupled the ensign spoken of in Isaiah 18 with the cause of freedom with the gospel which would leaven the world- not by compulsion- but that truth and freedom would be an "indirect influence" so overwhelming, self-evident and good, that the other nations would bow to the ensign.

Triumphantly, Parley declared the change would be
of such magnitude and greatness, that language is inadequate to express the probable result; we can only borrow the language of the Prophets, which is also insufficient to convey the idea properly, that is: The earth shall be full of knowledge, light, liberty, [and] brotherly kindness...[D]arkness will flee away, oppression will be known no more, and men will employ blacksmiths to beat up their old weapons of war into plowshares and pruning hooks...The world will be renovated both politically and religiously. 
Considering his comments to be only "partial ideas," Parley felt these principles included "all the practical truths in the universe that are within the grasp of mortal man" and that learning of them "may reach into immortality." He concluded:
We will acknowledge the hand of God in the movements of men, and in the development of minds, the result of which will be the fulfillment of what the Prophet has spoken—the renovation of our race, and the establishment of a universal Kingdom of God, in which His will will be done on earth as it is done in heaven (JD 1:137-143).[4]


Painting: Christ in America by Minerva Teichert (1888-1976). For more on Pratt's mission to Chile see A. Delbert Palmer, Mark L. Grover, "Hoping to Establish a Presence: Parley P. Pratt's 1851 Mission to Chile," BYU Studies 38:4 (1999), 115-138.

Ralph C. Hancock, "Constitution of the United States of America," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1.

ibid. Take, for instance, Hugh Nibley's comments:

Politics, as practiced on earth, belongs to the ways of men...The moral is clear: the children of God can work well with the men of the world, and bestow great blessings by their services--but there comes a time when one must draw the line and make a choice between the two governments. Such a choice was forced on the Mormons very early, and a very hard choice it was, but they did not flinch before it. "We will go along with you as far as we can; but where we can't we won't;" and no hard feelings (Nibley, "Beyond Politics." BYU Studies 15:1, [1974], pp. 4-5). 

An excellent study on the Millennial expectations of the Latter-day Saints is Grant Underwood's The Millenarian Worl of Early Mormonism. Parley believed that the timing of the second coming of Christ was not particularly fixed beyond mankind's ability to affect it. See "Can We Hasten or Delay the Second Coming?" for a brief look at various LDS perspectives on the issue. For a good launchpad on LDS views of the Constitution and political science see the sources compiled at Education for Eternity.For more on "Americanism" and the LDS Church, see "How 'American' Is the Church?"


Devotionals, Education Week presentations, Sperry Symposia, and other BYU broadcasts in audio and video.

BYU Speeches of the Year
Search by speaker, topic, or year; this site has a lot of material in a lot of formats.

FAIR Youtube Channel
Featuring videos of Blake Ostler, David Paulson, Wendy Ulrich, Michael Ash, Kevin Barney, Brant Gardner, etc.

FARMS Multimedia
Streaming audio, video, and MP3 of various scholars such as Daniel C. Peterson, Hugh Nibley, John W. Welch, and others. Audio Gospel Library
Scriptures, General Conference, magazines and study manuals. See also the Broadcast Archives, which contains CES firesides and other various videos.

Sunstone Symposium
MP3s of presentations from 1987 to the present. 1987-2006 free of charge.

The Worlds of Joseph Smith
The 2005 International academic conference cosponsored by BYU and the Library of Congress. Video and Audio available.

Recommended Online Sources For Mormon Studies*

BYU Digital Collections
Huge selection of primary sources in journals, master's theses, historical photographs, 19th century Mormon publications, etc.

BYU Studies
A crucial source for those interested in the LDS academic experience or Mormon studies in general. The site has many free articles, etc. in .pdf form.

Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought
An independent national quarterly established to explore Mormon culture (1966-present).

Element: A Journal of Mormon Philosophy and Theology
Publication of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism
An excellent and under-used resource, first published in 1992.

The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research is a volunteer organization focused on providing answers to questions regarding the LDS Church.

Journal of Discourses
HTML version. See also the original scans in .pdf.

Journal of Mormon History
Scholarly research and publication in the field of Mormon history (1975-present).
The official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

LDS General Conference Reports
A collection of conference reports from 1880 to the present.

LDS Newsroom
Up-to-date press releases, stories, and commentary from LDS Public Affairs.

Mormon Historical Studies
An independent periodical including essays, biographies, documents, book reviews, historical site descriptions, indexes, and archival listings published by the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation.

Neal A. Maxwell Institute For Religious Scholarship
Formerly called FARMS, publications from the Institute include the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, the FARMS Review, and other FARMS books all of which can be read online for free.
A great resource on world religion, including a portal specifically dedicated to Mormon studies.

Signature Books Online Library
This site has a bunch of Signature titles including Lucy's Book, the Heber C. Kimball diaries, essays by Eugene England and Richard D. Poll, and other interesting books.

Sunstone Magazine
"Mormon experience, scholarship, Issues, and Art" (1975-present).

The "B.H. Roberts Disclaimer"
"All the works given [here] should be read with discrimination; not accepting either all the premises laid down, or the conclusions reached. They are given merely as sources through which the student may pursue his [or her] thought-investigations, not for unquestioning acceptance" (B. H. Roberts, The Truth, the Way, the Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, ed. John W. Welch [Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1994], 36-37).

The Bloggernacle

A great starting point for those new to the blogging community, this site is a blog aggregator. It lists a multitude of blogs, updating daily with the most recent posts of each.

New site with information on most upcoming LDS-related symposia.

Other Recommended Blogs:By Common Consent
A group blog began in 2004 focusing on social aspects of LDS culture, doctrine and history.

Juvenile Instructor
JI seeks to situate the study of Mormonism within wider frameworks, including American religious, western, gender, etc. history.

Ardis Parshall deals mostly with historical Mormonism.

Jeff Lindsay was one of the earliest Internet apologists. His blog contains respectful, careful, sometimes funny, observational information about the Church.

New Cool Thang
"Mormon musings by yer ol' pals," an interesting and under-rated blog with philosophical leanings.

Patheos Mormon Portal
This is a great site for learning about an impressive variety of religious traditions. The Mormon portal includes commentary by and for Latter-day Saints. I've guest-posted there on occasion.

A religious/women's studies blog by "scholars who love strappy heels, vintage dresses, and cute purses" and "who take an academic interest in women–in their history and in their place in the world today."

Splendid Sun
Jonathan Stapley's historical, social and doctrinal thoughts on Mormonism. Not updated too often.

Times and Seasons
"Quite possibly the most pilloried, yet romantic, onymous Mormon group blog in history."

Other Friends Who Link to LifeOnGoldPlates:

Adventures in Mormonism
Bruce F. Webster's blog on things he thinks and reads about.

American Testament
A blog exploring aspects of the Book of Mormon

Book of Abraham Project Blog
W. V. Smith (BYU Professor of Mathematics) presents an interesting and ongoing look at the Book of Abraham (and the History of the Church as well).

Dave's Mormon Inquiry
Discussion on Mormon culture, history, and other stuff from long-time blogger Dave Banack. Now on

Lehi's Library
"This website is focused on Mormon apologetics and Mormon studies."

The Seer Stone
"Apologia and random thoughts by amateur LDS apologists."

Strong Reasons
"Publicly addressing the 'strong reasons' given by critics of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so that their 'shame shall
be made manifest' (D&C 71:1-8) as well as presenting some evidences
for the truthfulness of the LDS Church."

Things of My Soul
According to its masthead: "We talk of Christ . . . and we
write according to our (understanding), that our children
(and friends) may know to what source they may look
for a remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25:26)"

Book Reviews

I write book reviews for the Association for Mormon Letters. They are listed below in alphabetical order. I don't receive compensation for writing reviews other than complimentary copies of books from the publisher or friend. If you have a book you'd like me to review, email me at lifeongoldplates at yahoo dot com.

Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid. The Niche of Lights: A parallel English-Arabic text Translated, Introduced, and Annotated by David Buchman, (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1998).

Ash, Michael ROf Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Springville: Cedar Fort, 2009).

Barrett, Justin L. Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Beliefs (New York: Free Press, 2012).

Black, Susan Easton. The Best of the Frontier Guardian, (BYU Studies/University of Utah, 2009).

Brooks, Joanna. The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories From an American Faith (n.p., 2012).

Brown, Matthew B. Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons, (Salt Lake City: Covenant, 2009).

Bennett, BobLeap of Faith: Confronting the Origins of the Book of Mormon, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2009).

Bitton, Davis. Knowing Brother Joseph Again: Perceptions and Perspectives (Salt Lake City: Kofford Books, 2011).

Bushman, Claudia L., ed. Pansy's History: The Autobiography of Margaret E. P. Gordon, 1866-1966(Logan: Utah State University Press, 2011).

Carter, Stephen. What of the Night? Personal Essays, (Provo: Zarahemla Books, 2011).

Coats, John R. Original Sinners: A New Interpretation of Genesis, (New York: Free Press, 2009).

Cunningham, Conor. Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get It Wrong, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011).

Davies, Douglas J. Joseph Smith, Jesus, and Satanic Opposition: Atonement, Evil and the Mormon Vision, (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010).

Davis, James Calvin. In Defense of Civility: How Religion Can Unite America on Seven Moral Issues that Divide Us, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010).

Derr, Jill Mulvay, and Davidson, Karen Lynn. Eliza R. Snow: The Complete Poetry, (Brigham Young University Press/University of Utah Press: 2009).

Eagleton, Terry. On Evil, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011).

Eagleton, Terry. Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).

Faulconer, James E. Faith, Philosophy, Scripture, (Provo: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2010).

Foster, Craig L. A Different God? Mitt Romney, the Religious Right, and the Mormon Question, (Draper: Kofford Books, 2008).

Gardner, Brant. Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, (Draper: Kofford Books, 2008).

Gardner, Brant A. The Gift and the Power: Translating the Book of Mormon, (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011).

Givens, Terryl LThe Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Givens, Terryl LWhen Souls Had Wings: Pre-mortal Existence in Western Thought, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Givens, Terryl L. and Matthew J. Grow. Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Gould, Stephen Jay. The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox: Mending the Gap Between Science and the Humanities (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011).

Hale, Veda Tebbs. "Swell Suffering": A Biography of Maureen Whipple, (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011).

Hallstrom, Angela, ed. Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction, (Provo: Zarahemla Books, 2010).

Hardy, Grant. Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Harline, Craig. Conversions: Two Family Stories From the Reformation and Modern America, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011).

Hart, David BentleyAtheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009 paperback ed.).

Haslam, Molly C. A Constructive Theology of Intellectual Disability: Human Being As Mutuality and Response, (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012).

Haught, John F. God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008).

Hauglid, Brian M. A Textual History of the Book of Abraham: Manuscripts and Editions, (Provo: Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship, 2010).

Hedges, Andrew H., Alex D. Smith, Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds. Journals, Volume 2: December 1841-April 1843, Vol. 2 of the Journals series of the Joseph Smith Papers Project (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

Hedges, Chris. When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists, (New York: Free Press, 2009).

Higgs, Christopher. The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney, (Toluca Lake: Sator Press, 2010).

Holzapfel, Richard Neitzel, Dana M. Pike, and David Rolph Seely. Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2009).

Holzapfel, Richard Neitzel and Thomas A. Wayment. Making Sense of the New Testament: Timely Insights and Timeless Messages, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010).

Jennings, Ken. Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks, (Scribner, 2011).

Jepson, Eric W, et. al. The Fob Bible, (El Cerito: Peculiar Pages, 2009).

Lieb, Michael and Emma Mason, Jonathan Roberts, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Longhurst, John. Magnum Opus: The Building of the Schoenstein Organ at the Conference Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, (Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2009).

Lyman, Edward Leo. Amasa Mason Lyman, Mormon Apostle and Apostate: A Study in Dedication, (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2009).

Mason, Patrick Q. The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

McCraney, ShawnI Was a Born-Again Mormon: Moving Toward Christian Authenticity, (New York: Alathea Press, 2003, reprinted with modifications in April 2007). Published in the FARMS Review.

McDannell, Colleen, and Lang, Bernhard. Heaven: A History, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).

McNary-Zak, Bernadette and Rebecca Todd Peters, eds. Teaching Undergraduate Research in Religious Studies, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Miller, Adam S., ed. An Experiment on the Word: Reading Alma 32 (Salem: Salt Press, 2011).

Millet, Robert L. Modern Mormonism: Myths and Realities, (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011).

Mould, Tom. Still, the Small Voice: Narrative, Personal Revelation, and the Mormon Folk Tradition, (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2011).

Neilson, Reid L. Early Mormon Missionary Activities in Japan, 1901-1924, (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2010).

Neilson, Reid L. Exhibiting Mormonism: The Latter-day Saints and the 1893 World’s Fair (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Northey, Margot and Bradford A. Anderson, Joel N. Lohr. Making Sense in Religious Studies: A Student’s Guide to Research and Writing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). [offsite]

Pinker, Steven. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, (New York: Viking, 2011).

Reeve, W. Paul and Van Wagenen, Michael Scott. Between Pulpit and Pew: The Supernatural World in Mormon History and Folklore, (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2011).

Rollins, James. The Devil Colony: A Sigma Force Novel, (New York: William Morrow, 2011).

Sanders, John. No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized, (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2001 reprint).

Schweizer, Bernard. Hating God: The Untold Story of Misotheism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Skousen, Royal. The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).

Spencer, Joseph M. and Jenny Webb, eds. Reading Nephi Reading Isaiah: Reading 2 Nephi 26-27 (Salem: Salt Press, 2011).

Spencer, Joseph M. An Other Testament: On Typology (Salem: Salt Press, 2012).

Stephens, Randall J. and Karl W. Giberson. The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age (Cambridge: Harvard, 2012).

Stutz, Howard C. "Let the Earth Bring Forth": Evolution and Scripture, (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011).

Tayson, Steven C. Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds: Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011).

Turley, Jr., Richard E., Ronald W. Walker, eds. Mountain Meadows Massacre: The Andrew Jenson and David H. Morris Collections, (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2009).

Turley, Jr., Richard E., William W. Slaughter. How We Got the Book of Mormon, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011).

Watt, Ronald G. The Mormon Passage of George D. Watt: First British Convert, Scribe for Zion, (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2009).

Webb, Stephen C. Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Whitney, Orson F. Elias—An Epic of the Ages, "Forgotten Classics" edition, (American Fork: Grandin Press, 2010).

Whitney, Orson F. Life of Heber C. Kimball, "Forgotten Classics" edition, (American Fork: Grandin Press, 2010).

Whitney, Orson F. Saturday Night Thoughts, "Forgotten Classics" edition(American Fork: Grandin Press, 2010).

Wright, Jonathan. Heretics: The Creation of Christianity from the Gnostics to the Modern Church, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011).

Wright, N.T. Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today, (San Francisco, HarperOne, 2011).

Wright, N.T. Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters, (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2011).

Yassine, Nadia. Full Sails Ahead (Iowa City: Justice and Spirituality Publishing, 2006).

2008 Bushman Seminar

Papers from the 2008 Bushman Seminar "Joseph Smith and His Critics" were presented at BYU on July 29, 2008. My coverage included Richard Bushman's introductory paper, and my own reflections on the seminar, apologetics, and Church education.

Richard Bushman: Introduction
Text of Bushman's paper explaining the experience of Latter-day Saints who are or have been troubled by historical aspects of Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel. 

Preliminary Thoughts on the 2008 Bushman Seminar
My initial response after hearing the papers presented.

Follow-Up Thoughts on the 2008 Bushman Seminar
A post regarding church education, religious apologetics, and scholarship in general.

Ben, from Juvenile Instructor, posted his notes on the various papers. See part one and part two.

Currently the papers are being considered for publication in the Religious Educator magazine, organ of the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University . 

Unrelated to the Bushman seminar is a talk given by Bushman at Weber State University on March 5, 2008.  Read “Rough Stone Rolling and the Intellectual Prospects for Mormonism,” wherein RB discussed how Mormonism interacts with the larger scholarly community and the perception of non-Mormons in general.

FAIR Podcast Episodes

I write, record, edit and produce "FAIR Conversations," part of the Mormon FAIR-cast. Questions, comments and suggestions can be sent to me at Episodes can be downloaded for free at iTunes.

Episode 1: Gregory L. Smith
Polygamy, apologetics, and faith

Episode 2: Terryl L. Givens
Mormon studies, paradoxes, searching and certainty

Episode 3: Richard L. Bushman (p.1)
Joseph Smith

Episode 4: Richard L. Bushman (p.2)
Contemporary Mormonism

Episode 5: John Durham Peters (p.1)
The gospel and communication

Episode 6: John Durham Peters (p.2)
The gospel and communication

Episode 7: Brian Hauglid (p.1)
The Book of Abraham

Episode 8: Brian Hauglid (p.2)
The Book of Abraham

Episode 9: Kevin Christensen
Apologetics and the "amateur"

Episode 10: John E. Sanders
The fate of the unevangelized

Episode 11: Claudia Bushman
Women, feminism, oral history

Episode 12: Steven L. Peck (p.1)
Science and religion; evolution and faith

Episode 13: Steven L. Peck (p.2)
Latter-day Saint thought on evolution, the problem of natural evil

Episode 14: Tom Mould
Folklore and personal revelation stories

Episode 15: Matthew Bowman
On his new book, The Mormon People

Episode 16: Max Mueller
On blacks and the priesthood/temple restriction

August 21, 2006

Who is the author of Life On Gold Plates?

My name is Blair Dee Hodges. I earned a BA in Mass Communications with a minor in Religious Studies at the University of Utah in 2010. Now I'm at Georgetown University earning a MALS in religious studies. I'm addicted to reading and I enjoy writing book reviews for the Association for Mormon Letters. I've presented papers at Sunstone and for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology. My articles and reviews have appeared in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the FARMS Review, Sunstone,, and the Journal of Mormon History. I'm also currently the host of the FAIR Podcast.

I have a brilliant wife named Kristen and an obedient dog named Chicken Delicious. I direct the ward choir. I love the Utah Jazz way too much. I thoroughly enjoy music (The Weakerthans, Guster, The Shins, Bishop Allen, eels, David Bazan, Radiohead, etc.).

Life On Gold Plates is my own eclectic blend of historical, social, philosophical and doctrinal discussion. Diverse opinions are welcome in the comments sections.

To contact me click here, or click the "contact the author" link on the left side of the site. Thanks for dropping in.