Monday, March 31, 2014

Some Thought Provoking LDS Books

So, I really want to write some separate blog posts on each of these books, and I’m working on one right now, and am currently reading the others still, but I wanted to get these out there as books that I think are worth peoples time to read.

The following books aren't given in any specific order.

Understanding the Book of Mormon by Grant Hardy--This is a literary analysis of the Book of Mormon, but different than anything to date. Grant Hardy analyzes the three compilers/editors of the Book of Mormon--Nephi, Mormon and Moroni. I’m almost half way through this.

Of God and Gods by Blake T. Ostler--A theological/philosophical analysis, defense, comparison and explanation of the Godhead and Deification in Mormon thought. I’m about ⅔ of the way through this. Some of the philosophical and theological arguments take quite a bit of mental gymnastics. The scriptural arguments are gold.

In God’s Image and Likeness 1&2 by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen--These books are the best “commentaries” that exist on the Pearl of Great Price. Hands down. They are compilations of history, scholars (Mormon and not), science and art from all cultures. It has to be seen to be appreciated.

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman--The best scholarly handling of the Prophet Joseph Smith. “Warts and all” as I've heard said about it many times is accurate. I really enjoy seeing how the good the times and bad times were handled. Growing pains were just that, pains.

Opening the Heavens edited by John Welch--The first hand, second hand, third hand, etc...accounts of the translation of the Book of Mormon. The accounts of the first vision. The accounts of the restoration of the Priesthood. This book’s strength is in the accounts, both good and bad. The introduction articles to each set of accounts is also very good and informative.

By the Hand of Mormon by Terryl Givens--Fantastic scholarly work on the Book of Mormon’s translation, archaeology, critics and the concept of revelation as introduced by Joseph Smith (it’s one of my favorite chapters and favorite ideas, dialogic revelation). I have read this one completely and am working on a review for it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thoughts from "Increase in Learning" by David A. Bednar--Part 2

This is the second post in a four part series about highlights from Elder David A. Bednar’s book “Increase in Learning” published by Deseret Book. This is the shortest of the four parts.

I will hopefully be coming out with some more posts soon about some book reviews and possibly in some scholarly studies and, if I get daring enough, to introduce some theological ideas that I have found helpful and insightful as I have recently been studying about the view of God, particularly in regards to Trinitarianism in various forms, from other religions and how it has helped me understand other Christian faiths. Be patient with me as WRITING about the more scholarly, analytical, historical and theological side of faith is a new challenge I am taking on.

Chapter 2: Knowledge, Understanding and Intelligence

"Ultimately, the Savior is interested not just in what we know but in spiritual intelligence--in how we apply what we know for righteous purposes."--P.74

This is phrased very astutely. Elder Bednar defines a term not used very often, “spiritual intelligence” as being “how we apply what we know for righteous purposes.” This puts it in a category above “spiritual knowledge” or “spiritual information”. From this quote, we can see that the Savior IS interested in what we know, but that it is not sufficient to just KNOW things. He wants to see them applied and lived out in our lives, day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year and into the eternities. He wants to see us become like Him and increasing in spiritual knowledge and applying it is a crucial part of how to approach this.

"Intelligence is living in such a way that the doctrines of the Church are active in us--an active and integral part of who we are, and what we are, and what we do, and what we think."--P.75

It seems like this quote should almost appear before the previous quote in Elder Bednar’s book, but it doesn’t. This is a very straight forward reminder that we are to study and live the doctrines of the church. As a slight aside, we need to search, ponder and pray so that we may be assured that our studies of the doctrines of the Gospel will deepen our understanding and expand our soul, but challenge us to learn by study and also by faith.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Thoughts from "Increase in Learning" by David A. Bednar--Part 1

Let's start off by saying that I already quite thoroughly relate to and enjoy the way that Elder David A. Bednar speaks and structures his talks. I was quite excited when this book came out in 2011 so that I could learn more about learning! Particularly in the Gospel, but some of his book applies generally.

I am going to go through and highlight a couple thoughts/phrases from each chapter that caused me to stop, think and/or reflect on how I am doing in the area of personal learning.

Chapter 1: An Individual Responsibility to Learn

"Are you and I truly agents who act and seek to learn, or are we waiting to be acted upon and relying exclusively on other people to teach us?"--P.4

This is a principle that Elder Bednar places lots of emphasis on. Do we make our own choices to do good? Do we reach out to those around us? Do we step up and volunteer? As he points out, do we wait for others to teach us? I love learning, particularly about the Gospel. I make decisions to study my scriptures, to not just read them, but to search them for answers, to search them for what God would have me do, to understand my relation to Him and Jesus Christ, to have faith in dire times and to be motivated, among other reasons.

"'The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity--thou must commune with God.'"--P.6-7, this is a quote from Joseph Smith that Elder Bednar quotes--just to clarify :-)

Joseph Smith was a great example of learning the things of God. He received revelation upon revelation by asking question after question and serving person after person. You know, I personally don't think I stretch my mind high enough to the utmost heavens or low enough to the contemplate the darkest abyss and the broad expanse of eternity. Imagine what things God has in store for us as we stretch our thoughts and dwell on the spiritual things. Think of questions that you've always had, now, think about searching for that answer, have you communed with God in searching? What does Joseph Smith teach us here that is important to communing? That we need to stretch our minds all over! These things aren't given lightly. Reach, push, pull and stretch our minds. I'm not the best at this, but I'm getting better.

"'Put forth your ability to learn as fast as you can, and gather all the strength of mind and principle of faith you possibly can, and then distribute your knowledge to the people'"--P.9, this is a quote from Brigham Young that Elder Bednar quotes.

How fast are we learning? Do we think it is important to learn the things of God quickly? Or do we put other things before our Spiritual learning? Ever had one of those days where you don't have time to study anything from the scriptures? Yeah...those days have happened to me before, but the problem with them is that we are putting so many other things before what is really important and we don't see how important it truly is that we "gather all the strength of mind and principle of faith [we] possibly can". This is followed by the instruction to "then distribute [our] knowledge to the people". This is something I didn't understand before. I always studied for myself and sought learning and strength of mind and to increase my faith, but I didn't think about doing it in order to build the Kingdom of God by distributing that knowledge. That is one way we contribute to the building of the Kingdom of God.

"None of us...knows enough. The learning process is an endless process. We must read, we must observe, we must assimilate, and we must ponder that to which we expose our minds...You cannot afford to stop. You must not rest in your development....There is so much to learn and so little time in which to learn it.'"--P.11, quoting Gordon B. Hinckley

You're never enough, what a thing to hear from President Hinckley. I love reading, observing, assimilating and pondering, but I'm never done. Oh, and keep in mind that we have to learn SO much more than we think and SO little time to learn it in. A very good reminder to put learning before leisure.

"Spiritual knowledge cannot be given by or borrowed from another person. Shortcuts to the desired destination do not exist. Cramming for the ultimate final examination on the day of judgement is not an option."--P.16

Ok, Elder Bednar quote again, it's his book, so you'd think there would be more here from him, but I will get to more of him in the next three chapters. Anyway, I find this another motivating quote to acquire spiritual knowledge, why? Because I have to get it for myself! It is not something that can be given to me from another person. Cramming doesn't work like it does for some school tests--notice, "some", cramming hasn't worked for me in collegiate engineering very well...

Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and insights on these quotes. Remember, these are just highlights that stuck out to me. If you have other parts that you liked, feel free to share them below!

This is part one of a four part series on "Increase in Learning" by Elder David A. Bednar.