25 August 2012

Reminder: Presentation in Provo on 22 September 2012

Jeff will present as part of the The Temple on Mount Zion symposium in Provo, Utah. His presentation is entitled “The Ark and the Tent: Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah”, and linked are the tentative abstract and notes (note to readers: if the links are broken, let us know by way of comment or through this link, as Jeff is continually polishing and updating the presentation). Come prepared to learn, share, and interact with the attendees and speakers!

Date: Saturday, 22 September 2012
Time: 9:15am to 5:30pm

Provo Public Library
Third floor ballroom
550 N University Avenue
Provo, UT (map)

The abstracts and schedule can be found here at the Mormon Scripture Explorations blog, along with the following summary:
This conference was originally organized by Matthew Brown before his untimely passing. The conference focuses on LDS conceptions of ancient and modern Temple theology as reflected in the Bible and LDS scripture. We are attaching a program listing the participants and the time for their presentations, along with abstracts for each paper.

Admission to the conference is free, but seating is limited to about 300. During the lunch hour you can bring a bag lunch to eat in conference room, or visit some of the restaurants around Center St. and University Ave, a few blocks south of the library. The underground garage at the library is available for parking, but cars must be out at 6 pm.

New review at Interpreter

George L. Mitton, member of the editorial board of the new Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (link) and former associate editor of FARMS Review, has published a review of Jeff Bradshaw's book Temple Themes in the Book of Moses.

The full text of the review can be seen here.

21 August 2012

Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture

We're proud to announce a new outlet for peer-reviewed scholarly Mormon studies! You can see it here. Its mission statement is as follows:
Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture is a nonprofit educational journal focused on the scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, the Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, early LDS history, and related subjects. All publications are peer-reviewed and are made available as free internet downloads or through at-cost print-on-demand services.

Our goal is to increase understanding of scripture through careful scholarly investigation and analysis of the insights provided by a wide range of ancillary disciplines, including language, history, archaeology, literature, culture, ethnohistory, art, geography, law, politics, philosophy, etc. Interpreter will also publish articles advocating the authenticity and historicity of LDS scripture and the Restoration, along with scholarly responses to critics of the LDS faith. We hope to illuminate, by study and faith, the eternal spiritual message of the scriptures—that Jesus is the Christ.

Although the editors of the journal fully support the goals and teachings of the Church, the journal is an independent entity with no affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor with Brigham Young University. The Board of Editors alone is responsible for its contents.
Take a look at www.mormoninterpreter.com and feel free to leave feedback and comments at their site. Jeff is on the editorial board and is excited to see this organization grow.

What are the Three Degrees Within the Celestial Kingdom?

Temple teachings and ordinances are sometimes called “mysteries.” Though, in general religious usage, the word “mystery,” when standing alone, is typically used in a general way to signify revealed knowledge and understanding, references to the “mysteries of the kingdom” in the revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith clearly point to priesthood ordinances of the “royal priesthood” connected with the temple that have been given to certain individuals and families from the time of Adam. Though God had given to Joseph Smith “the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed,” the Prophet encouraged the Saints to learn of these things for themselves, beseeching them to go forward and “search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness.” As their reward, the faithful are promised: “And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old.”

These ideas did not originate with the Prophet Joseph Smith. For example, when Jesus Christ spoke of the “mysteries of the kingdom,” he also alluded to temple matters. Margaret Barker, writes:
…Jesus’ parables were more than simple stories. “To you,” he said to his closest disciples, “has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything is in parables.”

Secrets and mysteries were characteristic of temple tradition, and were the exclusive preserve of the high priesthood, who were permitted to enter the Holy of Holies.
Though differing somewhat in their terminology, the writings of Philo Judaeus, an important Jewish priest in the first century AD, and those within the New Testament book of Hebrews share similar distinctions in their description of a lower and higher priesthood, and their corresponding “mysteries.” In broad strokes, the significant contrast in both cases is between the lesser and the greater priesthood and their corresponding rites; in other words, between the Levitical priesthood (as described in Hebrews)—roughly corresponding to the Lower Mystery of Aaron (as described by Philo)—and the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ (in Hebrews)—analogous to the Higher Mystery of Moses (in Philo). In both cases, what characterizes the greater rites is that they bring the initiate beyond the veil into the presence of God, and there invest him with an eternal priesthood and kingship in the likeness of the Divine.


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05 August 2012

The Parable of the Unjust Judge: “Weary Him Until He Blesses You”

The lesson of Jesus’ little-remembered parable of the importunate widow and the unjust judge was a recurring allusion in the teachings of the Joseph Smith. The parable reads:
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
Harvey summarizes the cultural background of the story:
The setting was a small town. A widow—which was a byword for someone reduced to poverty through no fault of her own—had been the victim of some fraud or sharp practice, and in order to recover her money she had to go to law. In such cases, this did not involve a formal sitting of a court; it was sufficient for the parties to agree upon a qualified lawyer to arbitrate between them. The little town, in any case, may have possessed only one such lawyer; if so, the widow’s only hope of redress lay in persuading this lawyer to attend to her case. Now it was a fundamental principle of Jewish justice that a judge received no payment. There was therefore only a moral obligation for the lawyer to attend to all the cases brought before him. This particular lawyer was not sensitive to his moral obligations—he cared nothing for God or man; possibly he waited until litigants brought him a present before he concerned himself with their affairs. But the widow, by again and again thrusting her papers in front of him, finally got her way.

…The justice of the widow’s claim is taken for granted; the point is the difficulty she had in getting it attended to.
In what sense can God be compared to such a judge? Elder Talmage explains:
Jesus did not indicate that as the wicked judge finally yielded to supplication, so would God do; but He pointed out that if even such a being as this judge, who “feared not God, neither regarded man,” would at last hear and grant the widow’s plea, no one should doubt that God, the Just and Merciful, will hear and answer… The Lord’s purpose in giving the parable is specifically stated; it was “to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” [= Greek ekkakeo, to be weary or to lose heart]

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03 August 2012

The Second Comforter: The Father Teacheth Him

D&C 84:47-48 speak of what might be called the blessing of “Divine Tutorial,” wherein the Father provides personal instruction to those who have received Him:
And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.

And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you…
In his explanation of the promise given in the gospel of John of a Second Comforter, the Prophet Joseph Smith described the privilege of personal instruction from the Father and the Son, making it clear that it may be enjoyed in mortality by those who have had their calling and election made sure, long before such individuals actually receive the Father’s kingdom: When any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. After Jesus reassured His ancient apostles with the promise of His return with the Father to minister to them as a Second Comforter, He taught them about the new relationship He now had with them as “friends” rather than “servants”:
Greater love [= Greek agape] hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends [= Greek philoi].
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

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02 August 2012

“All That My Father Hath Shall Be Given Unto Him”: Receiving the Kingdom

D&C 84:35-37 teaches an important aspect of the order of the priesthood; namely, that no one can receive the Father or the Father’s kingdom until he has received the Son, and that no one can receive the Son unless he accepts the Lord’s authorized priesthood servants:
And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
In New Testament times, Peter, James, and John were given the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood to represent the Lord in directing the work of salvation on the earth. Likewise, in the last dispensation, the Lord specifically told his Saints to receive the Prophet Joseph Smith’s word “as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.” Conversely, he who rejects the Lord’s servants rejects the Lord and the Lord’s prophet. Elder Boyd K. Packer taught: “The man who will not sustain the bishop of his ward and the president of his stake will not sustain the President of the Church.” Elder Melvin J. Ballard explained that these principles operate even in the next life:
Some folks get the notion that the problems of life will at once clear up and they will know that this is the Gospel of Christ when they die. I have heard people say they believe when they die they will see Peter and that he will clear it all up. I said, “You never will see Peter until you accept the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, at the hands of the elders of the Church, living or dead.” They will meet these men to whom this right and authority has been given, for this generation shall receive it at the hands of those who have been honored with the priesthood of this dispensation. Living or dead, they shall not hear it from anyone else.
Those who receive the Father eventually receive the supernal blessing of His kingdom. D&C 84:38 reads:


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