“Since coming to Brigham Young University a few years ago,” Robinson’s preface begins, “I have noticed a peculiar and unexpected thing” (p. ix). It’s peculiar and unexpected also that Robinson begins with this peculiar and unexpected thing. Let me see if I can explain. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on June 4, 2012
Posted by joespencer on June 1, 2012
I want to begin this series with a few words about the context in which Believing Christ appeared. I’m not sure it makes a whole lot of sense to read this book apart from its original setting. It would, at any rate, be a bit uncharitable to criticize any part of Robinson’s book as “unscriptural” without trying to get a sense for what exactly he was trying to address. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on June 1, 2012
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Stephen Robinson’s Believing Christ, unquestionably the most widely read LDS book on the subject of atonement or grace. The book has had an enormous impact in American Mormonism—though in some ways not enormous enough—and I think it deserves a fresh look, particularly in light of the pastoral, devotional, and particularly theological work it has spawned and/or made possible.
Accordingly, I’m going to work through a series of posts on Believing Christ here at the Feast blog. My aim will be to read critically and carefully, both to highlight what I think was truly revolutionary and vital about Robinson’s book and to identify points where I think his understanding of grace parts ways with (especially specifically Mormon) scripture. I can only hope this project isn’t too arrogant. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on April 30, 2012
We are saddled with the task of sorting out the whole of Abinadi’s speech in a single lesson. That’s devastatingly difficult, particularly because Abinadi’s speech marks the—and I mean the—turning point in the history of the Nephites, and in about a dozen ways. We’ve got to look very carefully at those details. That’s all the more difficult, given that the historical setting still needs some serious work, even after last week’s lesson and associated notes, and given that we’ve also got to do some serious theological work on the text as we work through it. There’s too much to be done on Abinadi’s speech.
But we’ll get started and see what we can’t do here. Read the rest of this entry »
Book of Mormon Lesson #17: “A Seer Becometh a Great Benefit to His Fellow Beings,” Mosiah 7-11 (Sunday School)
Posted by joespencer on April 23, 2012
Let’s say that this lesson serves as a kind of bridge between Benjamin and Abinadi. At least, that’s how I want to take it. There’s much to learn as we cross this bridge, but my principal aim will be to set up as well as possible Abinadi’s speech and circumstances. We’ll see why especially in the next lesson.
So what are we looking at here? Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on March 25, 2012
In my last post, I worked through Mosiah 1-3, the first “half” of Benjamin’s speech. Now we have the remainder—Mosiah 4-6—to work through. I’ve already commented in my previous post on the fact that Benjamin has taken us, thus far, through a discussion of the creation, then of the fall, and finally of atonement. What follows in the remainder of the speech is very interesting in light of this progression.
But there’s no need to go back to review. Benjamin begins this next part of his speech with a most important review of what he’s already had to say. Let’s take a look at that. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on March 20, 2012
King Benjamin’s speech in two lessons? Well, it’s a bit slower than we’re usually forced to go, but there’s anything but the necessary space here to deal adequately with Benjamin’s pregnant words. In many ways, Benjamin’s sermon is the Sermon on the Mount of the Book of Mormon, the presentation of the hard, practical demands of the gospel of Christ. It’s here that one finds the equation of service to others with service to God, the most overt obliteration of every idea of salvation by works, the divine demand to be like a child, the requirement to see oneself as absolutely nothing and God as everything, the condemnation of those who reject beggars because they brought it on themselves, the unavoidable importance of the covenant, etc. It is here, first and foremost in the Book of Mormon, that the theological rubber meets the road of everyday living. We would do well to pay the closest attention to Benjamin’s words.
Here’s what I want to do is the following:
(1) Deal a bit with the setting of the sermon (drawing in part on the historical work of my last post)
(2) Analyze the opening of Benjamin’s speech—his analysis of kingship and servitude
(3) Work at some length through Benjamin’s discussion of grace
(4) Touch lightly on the presentation of Mosiah as the new king
(5) Say a few words about Benjamin’s warnings against contention, etc.
(6) Tackle very carefully the words Benjamin attributes to an angel: the doctrine of Christ
That should keep us quite busy. Read the rest of this entry »
Book of Mormon Lesson #14: “For a Wise Purpose,” Enos, Jarom, Omni, Words of Mormon (Gospel Doctrine)
Posted by joespencer on March 13, 2012
We’re on our way from the small plates to Mormon’s abridgement, and that way is paved by several short books. What I’ll do in this lesson, mostly, is attempt to set the stage for the Book of Mosiah. I’ll have relatively little to say about what’s usually talked about in Enos and Jarom, and I’ll get rather quickly to the details of the discovery of Zarahemla in Omni and the Words of Mormon. After all that, I’ll have a handful of things to say about the small plates as such, also drawn from Omni and the Words of Mormon. And then I’ll leave the small plates behind to turn to King Benjamin. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on March 8, 2012
As I mentioned in last post, I’ll be tackling all of Jacob 4-7 in this post. I noted last time that chapters 1-3 form a unit, while chapters 4-6 form a distinct unit, and chapter 7 forms a unit all its own. So I’ll be addressing chapter 4 in connection with chapters 5-6. And I’ll add some notes about chapter 7 as well.
I’ll be frank at the start that I don’t much like writing or talking about the allegory of the olive tree. Largely that’s because I find that it’s one of few places in the Book of Mormon where Latter-day Saints have done seriously dedicated work to understand the text. (If only we collectively used the same sort of care in reading Isaiah!) I’m mostly happy to let people work on those already productive readings. It’s also, though, because I find the dominant interpretation a bit overpowering. I suspect there are other, quite important things going on in the allegory than a kind of basic map of covenantal history, but I have a hard time finding my way out of the dominant approach.
But my task remains my task. We’ll see what can’t be learned by coming to it again. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by joespencer on February 29, 2012
This is the first of the two lessons dedicated to the relatively short Book of Jacob. The task here is to tackle chapters 1-4, while the next lesson tackles chapters 5-7. I’ll arrange my notes slightly differently. It’s quite clear that chapters 4-6 make up a single unit (chapters 4-5 were a single chapter in the original Book of Mormon, at any rate), so it seems strange to me to couple chapter 4 with chapters 1-3, which also form a single unit (with chapters 2-3 being a single chapter in the original Book of Mormon). So, in this post, I’ll tackle only the first three chapters of Jacob here.
As the original chapter breaks suggest, it’s probably best to take chapter 1 on its own, and then to take the pair of chapters 2 and 3 together. That’s what I’ll do. Read the rest of this entry »